Friday, April 29, 2016

Day 29: Elizabeth Lash on "Minnesota jump" by Kurt Nimmo

I must have looked at Nimmo's poem a dozen times or more by now—I keep returning to the grey and frozen landscape into which the poet drives, which undoubtedly represents his own mortality. Each time, I am struck by how he holds up Berryman's life as a mirror to his own. Perhaps Nimmo wonders how he will choose to let go when he finally finds himself staring down death's barrel—will it be with notoriety, winning himself post-mortem fame, or will it be into obscurity, with a long, slow decline? (One wonders, why is it the jump into the unknown, and not the work itself, which seems to help achieve true notoriety?)

The essence of this poem's beauty is in its evocation of illness, suicide, and a frozen, isolated landscape with just a few penstrokes. But I most admire the simplicity in the way he frames the subject matter at the outset ("another trip to the doctor"); the image of the "turgid, green" Tallahatchie with the contrasting frozen Colorado, as pictured in his mind's eye; and the visual aspect of the final two lines. Simply by distancing the last line from the body of the poem, one hears the thud of the body falling onto solid ice. It is an end to the line and to Berryman's life, and an elegant and shattering way to end the poem.

—Elizabeth Lash

1 comment:

Dorothy James said...

Good comment by Elizabeth Lash on a poem, enticing in its simplicity, leading sparely but inexorably to what Lash perceptively describes as the "thud" of the strong closing line.