Newsletter of the Association of Library and Information Science Students (ALISS)




 title of the newsletter: The Silverfish


April/May 2004

Vol VIII Issue IV

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Hymn to Spring

A Poem by Karen Estlund, MLIS Day
With Commentary by John Glover, MLIS Day

Photo by Adam Rains.
I begin, of fair haired Demeter, awful goddess, to sing
of her and of her daughter lovely Persephone.
With the bloom of spring, Persephone joyously returns
From the lord of the dead to her resplendent mother
Just like we survived winter quarter, entering spring
But the gods are not with us and we are attacked
By the power of allergens and governing pollen
Flonase, Allegra, Claritin fight the fruit of her return
And blended strength restrain and make bearable the days
We beseech you, keep the joy, o’ great Goddesses, of spring
And let us delight free from the bonds of our allergies.

--Karen estlund

By John Glover

This poem is patterned on the model of the hymns once favored by classical authors. Even were there no title, surely the dactylic hexameter - the signal meter of Greek epic - would point to Estlund's classical ambitions. She has taken on a topic of both historical and contemporary appeal, addressing it with vigor and bravery, given the difficulty of the meter. Dactylic hexameter (two long syllables followed by two short ones) is a famously difficult meter to render in our native tongue, as exemplified by Longfellow's efforts in his Evangeline . Estlund here takes the challenge by lending her lines a certain flexibility and makes bold leaps of meter that many more staid poets would forcefully eschew. Some might reckon this bravery merely another sign of the decay of our nation's moral fiber (o tempora, o mores!), but these are the same types of people as could not accept the historical truth behind the staid Victorian myth of the Poetess Sappho.

1. This line mimics the opening of the greatest of all Greek poems, Homer's Iliad ("Sing, o goddess, the rage of Achilles, son of Peleus") Demeter: Greek goddess of fertility; the fair hair alludes to her fertility and link with golden-colored grain.

2. Persephone: daughter of Demeter, carried off by Hades and forced to spend part of each year in the underworld, accounting for the arrival of winter. Her return thus heralds, as Estlund craftily notes, the return of beauty and fertility to the world.

4. lord of the dead: Hades.

6. Note the change in meter at the end of the line as the poet uses a spondee to indicate the grief and sorrow we feel at such an assault.

7. In a striking twist, Estlund veers off into the land of technical language (the proper stuff of didactic verse) with allergens. What this change signifies, this commentator cannot say.

8. In another bold move, the poet uses the modern pharmaceuticals Flonase, Allegra, and Claritin to create a new female triad (maiden, mother, and crone).

An uneasy tension remains at the end of the poem. While using certain conventions of meter and capitalization in the poem, Estlund eschews traditional nominal capitalization in favor of the modernist lower-case. We are left to wonder if the poem is a modern take on an ancient form or a new thing unto itself, carrying with it but the fleeting vestiges of bygone days. 


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