Monday, July 5, 2010

Contemporary Dance & Funerals

Poem of the Day:
"At the County Museum" by Ted Kooser
Delights & Shadows

I've been reading a lot of Kooser lately. I like his simplicity of form and his humble diction. And well, his author picture is just the cutest 'old man' photo this side of the Charles.

Tonight I took my first contemporary dance class in six months (see the post regarding my first ballet class in six months). I am in pain, but it was an amazing feeling to return to dance once again. Absences are that much sweeter when you can return.

The content of Kooser's poem belies the title; "At the County Museum" is a haunting poem about death. Kooser writes, "Blacker than black, the lacquered horse-drawn hearse,/dancing with stars from the overhead lights,/has clattered to a stop" (lines 1-3). He continues on, writing of the now museum-housed horse-drawn hearse and the many stops it took when in use, emptying itself at each: "How many times must a thing like this be emptied/to look so empty?" (lines 11-12).

This line brought me to my dance class this evening. Much of contemporary and modern dance is focused upon round shapes, emptying and filling ones belly, arms, etc. Kooser's poem, one about a naive encounter with rituals of death, made me ponder the limits of the human body. Can we ever "look so empty?" Can our bodies ever portray the loss inherent in a museum display of a horse-drawn hearse, "its oak spokes soberly walking,/each placed squarely in front of the next" (lines 7-8)?

Kooser's poem ends with the speaker's notice of a black cushion in the hearse. The poet writes, "And on the board bench where dozens of drivers/jounced year into a black plush cushion that for each, for a time,/helped to soften the nearness of death" (lines 17-20). And, in a stationary object, Kooser's speaker better understands death, its forms and how we cope.

Is there a way to understand this same thing by means of a moving body, by motion and not display? Dance me a dance.

A Poem A Day Audrey


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