Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Strength of a Name

Poem of the Day:
Irving Feldman's "Terminal Laughs"
The Best American Poetry, 1995

Feldman writes of an encounter he had with what I can only perceive as a celebrity that has fallen from the limelight, a so-called "'Gregorio Nunzio Corso'" (line 26). Feldman recounts how Corso, in the midst of the speaker's party and "a gulp/away from getting smashed" (lines 2-3), insults his name remarking, "'Irving Feldman...what kind of name is that for a poet?'" (lines 11-12).

As an aspiring writer, the opening of this piece clearly made me reconsider my name, and also, how often I proclaim my name to others. Today: 2 times. First, I had to announce my name to the receptionist at my yoga studio so she could sign me in as a member. Second, I had to introduce myself in order to get into a concert for my internship; I was listed as "Audrey M.", a name-shortening that saved an instance of pedantic spelling -- "M...c...G..."

Feldman's poem ends thirty years from where it began. He is at a party once again with Corso, though now the speaker has achieved fame -- whatever fame there is to be had from publishing poetry -- with his writing. Corso, thirty years older and "half toothless" (line 78), greets him by saying, "'Irving Feldman, huh? Just another pretty name'" (line 84), and the poem promptly ends.

What changed the title of "Irving Feldman?" Was it his 'fame' or Corso's embarrassment at his inability to age gracefully?

I too like to think that my name will strengthen with age, that I will only become more prouder that it is mine and that I get to announce it twice daily. But, who can know -- who can say what wear these titles we wear will face?

A Poem A Day Audrey


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