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Jerry W. Engler

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Writing Living Henry's Dream
By Jerry W. Engler
Last edited: Sunday, April 19, 2009
Posted: Friday, April 17, 2009

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Jerry W. Engler

• Conniving My Retirement
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I hope that you find an artist trying to explain his own work useful in some way.

I am attempting something with this article that I have never tried before--that is explaining how and why, in my own rough way, I wrote a poem, the one posted on AD called Living Henry's Dream.
I find that I have to overcome personal rules that I never even knew I had to do this. First of all, as pointed out by one of my AD friends, there is a purist attitude that tells me there is something low about explaining my poetry. Others should have to explain its meaning.
Secondly, there is my own concept of what I am about when I write poetry. I don't write from a given set of rules as to structure, line lengths, word numbers, etc. I write from what is my own personal insight, inspiration, perspective and intuition to try to bring about something that can be even above my personal scope. It has a very spiritual aspect to me, an energy that goes beyond myself. I try to flesh out my inspiration with vivid detail and description to produce high energy language.
I find poetry, like much of art, to be very subjective, uplifting according to the feelings of both the writer and the reader.
If I'm sounding too high minded, I'll bring it all back down to proper modesty by saying boy, do I ever love to slug this slop out.
So, here is what I was about with this poem. It is intended to be mind-bending, to wrap your brain around a bit inside another person's passion and madness. You are meant to share in his perplexity and confusion, in his dream state.
"A black dirt boy on a black belt highway" is a descriptive way to say this voice was a guy who grew up on a farm, and he's out in an automobile traveling a hard surface road. Beside him is his bereaved brain's alter-ego that he has become somewhat dispossessed to, whom he correctly addresses with the name that has its effect on him, "Exile."
They're living Henry Ford's dream, perhaps, which was to give Americans freedom of movement with the automobile. If you read Henry Ford's many biographies, you learn that Henry especially wished to relieve farm families of their limitations in being able to leave farms and local activities for a broader life, something he had ardently wished for as a farm boy himself.
The next lines begin the illustration of confusions for our voice. He's got butterflies between the teeth, and he's losing it for even knowing for sure where he's at, both geographically and by inference in his own life. The butterflies are both allegory and description for what it must be like to catch the bugs with that brain out in front of the windshield.  It's beautiful springtime out there, but is his life really beautiful as Henry hoped it might be? The line, see the USA in your Chevrolet, is there to reemphasize what we have been made to believe is the freedom represented by the automobile. It was the main promotion jingo for Ford's rival, General Motors, in the 1950's.
Is it freedom he has, or is it permanent exile by mechanization from all the things that should have been dear to him, no more farm, no more family, no more home?? You might stop a moment to think of Charlie Chaplin's movie about the machine, the evoloution of factory production. The madness continues with his asides to Exile about where he's even at. It's reemphasized when he says he hates to see Exile's skull exposed when he grins real wide.
Notice he didn't say really widely. His origins are exposed in vernacular speech.
Then there's what I consider that tough, poignant line right after "with us out here, having the good times." That line is "just the two of me." It's the sad acknowledgement that there really is only him, and he's by himself, the exile is his. Yes, he says in so many words, life was tough back in Henry's day, and it's no wonder Henry wanted my dream.
But I, as the writer, by this time  I hope I am presenting the thought to you, wow, was this really Henry's dream, or in reality did it become a nightmare Henry never anticipated? Or, I also really like Jasmin's take that some of the liveliness of life might be in not knowing where you are going, and how you will get there.
I may be back to rewrite this, or add to it. But you have the benefit, or lack of benefit, from my first  thoughts. Thanks to all of you from me.





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Reviewed by Kathy Kopp 4/26/2009
This article helped me appreciate the poem more deeply and accurately, according to the poet himself. It affirmed my guesses involved in reading the Henry Ford poem. Like others, I like your line "just the two of me," Jerry.

A method of explaining how we write a poem could benefit those non-poets and those readers. I think it's daring and successful.
Reviewed by Jean Pike 4/20/2009
Fantastic article, Jerry. Reading the poem, I see my understanding of it was pretty much as you intended. It's great of you to let us inside your head as you have here. I often wish more poets would, because I sometimes feel completely baffled by their meaning. Not that a writer ever has to justify or explain, but I'm so glad you did :)
Reviewed by Cryssa C 4/17/2009
I appreciated hearing your thought process on how and why you wrote this poem the way you did... Yes, as Gianetta said, sometimes...maybe even most times, poetry stands by itself, but...there are times that those explanations are rather nice to have. Sometimes I have left particular parts of my poems out when I posted them on AD because I didn't want to have to explain what I meant or feared that it would be taken in a different way than I meant it to be and didn't want to have to deal with that...hee, hee...
At any rate, I always find your writing enjoyable...whether or not I completely understand it the way it was intended or not. :~)

Reviewed by JASMIN HORST SEILER 4/17/2009
Jerry, I don't know you keep refering to ending up a nightmare, but to explore oneself, ones dreams, even if it fails, is living, living succesfully I use it loosely is much overated, for it is how it is measured and by whom and whose standards, to many are afraid to explore their dreams for fear of failure. Not knowing where you are and how you got there, has been the story of my life, and I am glad, for in the end it made it much more interesting.
Reviewed by Gianetta Ellis 4/17/2009
Thank you, Jerry. I appreciate this article not merely because it helps one to understand a particular poem, but because it helps one to better know its author. I like knowing a writer's "process." I like knowing from where a poem or story was born. Those who read "Living Henry's Dream" had the benefit of an unbiased, first review prior to the development of this explanatory article. That is, perhaps, as it should be. Poems are good as "stand alone - glean what you will" pieces, but sometimes, it is nice to be privy to their origins.

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