Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Killer Words: "Admirable Men"

by Bacopa Literary Review Senior Editor Mary Bast
The U.S. government introduced the Kudzu vine into the ecosystem in the 1930s to prevent soil erosion . . . instead . . . Kudzu chokes trees and plants that it grows near, climbs buildings, and destroys foundations. ("Killer Words," in 12 Thought Provoking Examples of Irony in History, Literary Devices: Definition and Examples of Literary Terms)
We're all familiar with the notion of irony. A particular version is situational irony, which occurs when there's "a twist that plays with the expectations of the audience."

When I first read J. Nishida's 2019 poetry submission, "Pantoum: Admirable Men," I noted to Poetry Editor J.N. Fishhawk that "simply reading it to myself created a deep shock."

Fishhawk responded, "And indeed, when Nishida reads it live from the Civic Media Center stage, the power is intense--shock, anger, grief, it all comes through . . . putting that power and feeling into such a strict formal piece--quite an accomplishment."

Nishida's perfect presentation of the pantoum poetic form* makes "Admirable Men" a notable example of situational irony--line after line begins with "he said... he said... he said..." and the title leads us to expect.the rest of each line will laud achievements of a particular admirable man. Instead we are challenged, line by line, with killer** words:

Pantoum: Admirable Men
J. Nishida
he said, if there are many, shattering one is an act of artistic discovery, not destruction
he said, if she'd only tell him the truth, he could truly love her, possess her
he said, she's too naive, too simplistic; he explained, the vomit rising in her throat is not valid
he said, the slaying of his finest herds was an act of selfless penance
he said, if she'd only tell him the truth, he could truly love her, possess her
he said, in personal growth to strength, one must not fear the act of destruction
he said, the slaying of his finest herds was an act of selfless penance
he said, blondes make the best victims

he said, in personal growth to strength, one must not fear the act of destruction
he said, it was her face that launched a thousand ships and burnt the city's towers
he said, blondes make the best victims
he said, the achievement of military objectives justifies collateral damage

he said, it was her face that launched a thousand ships and burnt the city's towers
he said, were he to come back as woman, she must have beauty to have value
he said, the achievement of military objectives justifies collateral damage
he said, he burned them without even looking, he deemed stupidity love for a woman

he said, were he to come back as woman, she must have beauty to have value
he said, he'd win his wager by show of her obedience
he said, he burned them without even looking; he deemed stupidity love for a woman
he said, don't you think it's worth it? Their suffering, for human advancement?

he said, he'd win his wager by show of her obedience
he said, only the shallow take her slaying literally, the deep see empowering symbolism
he said, don't you think it's worth it? Their suffering, for human advancement?
he said, do not permit her to preach, to teach; she must cover up her head

he said, only the shallow take her slaying literally; the deep see empowering symbolism
he said, she's too naive, too simplistic; he explained, the vomit rising in her throat is not valid
he said, do not permit her to preach, to teach; she must cover up her head
he said, if there are many, shattering one is an act of artistic discovery, not destruction
*Four-line stanzas, the second and fourth lines becoming the first and third lines of the next stanza, and often the first line becomes the last.

**Synonyms for killer: hunter, slayer, assassin, butcher, slaughterer, executioner, exterminator, cut-throat, gunman, hitman, murderer. 

 *    *   *
J. Nishida came to Gainesville in 1989 and has yet to escape. She's been a student of science, education,. language, linguistics, and literature, working variously as a teacher, library story lady, mom, and with non-profits supporting arts and education. Sometimes host of Gainesville's Thursday PoJam.

(Read more Poetry, Mixed Genre, Fiction, Haiku, and Creative Nonfiction works
in Bacopa Literary Review 2019, Print Edition or Digital Format)

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