THE CHRONOTOPE || Yvette Siegert on poetry + translation

Unreading “Ulalume”

Posted in flamenco, Limerick du jour, Music, Nonce, Sheer Happiness, Sighting of the Day by Yvette Siegert on Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Last night I was at the Joyce watching the astonishing flamenco dancer Israel Galván. I don’t know how it happened—maybe it was the speed and rhythm of his footwork—but my mind started playing and replaying “Ulalume,” Edgar Allen Poe’s hypnotic Halloween poem par excellence. I discovered it as a kid, and it scared me so much that I had to memorize it, so it’s sort of had the role of a nursery rhyme in my life. In any case, after leaving the theatre I walked up to Chelsea to buy döner for dinner, and I still couldn’t get the poem out of my head. It was driving me nuts. So I decided to chisel it out with the only fool-proof strategy I know: by writing a parody of it. Only, it came out as a doggerel limerick, instead. If you’re at a restaurant alone and need something to do before the food arrives, writing limericks happens to be one of the best ways to bide one’s time:

You LaLoom

The misty mid-region of Weir
Has suddenly found its way here.
I used to assume
that deceased Ulalume
was, not the afraid, but the fear.

Ulalume was a bitch, I decided,
In the way that she grimly presided
in rhyme after rhyme,
and rhetorical rhyme,
o’er the land where she, haunting, resided.

Now what will it do here, this region?
To stay is a ghoulish decision.
The Chelsea Hotel
Might serve it quite well,
if its real-estate woes weren’t so legion.

Is it geopolitical treason,
Or a crisis of fantastic reason,
For a make-believe place
To choose to erase
Itself from its verse, out of season?

I propose that if by Halloween
Weir find it’s best to be seen
In poems by Poe,
Or by those in the know,
It should go, with its tail in between.

Thus once, through an alley titanic,
Poe’s psyche so tripped in a panic.
Alliteration
is the sole consolation
for sadness so psychosomatic.

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