069.1: Daniel Carter:: Parable of My Favorite Number & How to Do, What to Say & Sky Filled & Seeing As
5 July 2011
A parable instructs; its methods are pithiness, succinctness, and universality. So when Daniel Carter names the first poem of this week’s selection “Parable of My Favorite Number,” we must ask what it is that we are supposed to learn. Yes, there is something universal to a favorite number, but I doubt mine is yours and yours is mine. Even the title suggests paradox. Likewise, the title of “How To Do, What To Say” informs us that we will glean some greater insight, that the poet’s aim is instructional. But Carter’s short lines turn in and in on themselves and attempt to avoid a greater meaning and a larger narrative whole. We are reading, but we are not. We are learning, but we are not. There is both a sense of completeness and emptiness. “Parable of My Favorite Number” ends somewhat sentimentally, but what is that sentiment? Is it lamentation? In that same poem, the appearance of Sherlock and Watson suggests a mystery and that this mystery will be solved. It’s as if the work is pastiched together and these loosely connected clauses, albeit only seemingly cohesive, only serve to lead us down a path of endless forks and dead ends. To confuse. There is only one way out and the poet knows that but we do not, not yet, we can never expect it, and that’s where our joy as readers comes from – the discovery of meaning through juxtaposition, questioning, and deduction. Daniel Carter is our playful Professor Moriarty and it is our job to engage with him and his clever ploys so that we may be delighted by his brilliance and our own. Elementary, my dear readers.