Friday, July 29, 2016

"By Cherry Green Ensorcelled" by James Frederick William Rowe, Frequent Contributor

By Cherry Green Ensorcelled
James Frederick William Rowe

Cherry Green

What colour do you think of
When I say those words?
Whatever it is
You're wrong
The phrase is meaningless
The colour imaginary
But I have made you
Envision it nevertheless
An incantation of an image
By the power of my words

     Was it bright?
     Was it dull?

Mine is bright like limes
Green as a traffic light
A-glow for go
In a rain-washed night
Green as candy is green
So is the caster
Victim of the spell
Captured, too
By the words he writes
And the images they conjure

Poet’s Notes:  Before reading these notes, do please take a moment to fix in your mind the colour you experienced when reading the poem. Part of the fun of this poem is having your own conception of what "cherry green" means.

The phrase "cherry green" came to me out of the blue (ha!) about a month ago. I believe I was sitting down to have breakfast when it just popped into my mind. What does it mean for green to be cherry? Cherry is a shade of red! And yet, in spite of this, I could not help but picture a colour, even if the phrase is meaningless and conflicts (as a philosopher I shall not say "contradicts") with itself.

Before writing the poem, I actually queried several people to ask them what they imagined cherry green to be, struck by how odd it was that a phrase which described a completely arbitrary and made up colour term could nevertheless evoke a picture. Some thought it was green, others red, some bright, others dull—really, I got a wide gamut of answers, though there seemed to have been a slight preference for green over red, and one such answer that it was an artificial green as one would see in candy, helped me in the poem itself ("green as candy is green"). Again, in spite of it being a meaningless phrase, we nevertheless are moved to imagine something to go alongside it. This magical (and I do mean magical) quality—the ability of words to ignite the imagination even without inherent meaning—thus became a major theme in the poem where I (the narrator/poet) am both the one who harnesses this power for my own purposes (by writing the poem and making everyone experience the colour), and also its victim (as I too am subject to the same power).

Aesthetically, this poem was pretty easy to write. After deciding I'd make a poem out of this, I penned it pretty simply on the subway. I altered it only for structural purposes, making "cherry" a single-verse stanza, and making the short questions in the middle their own stanza of four verses. The main stanzas are ten a piece, and I had only to alter them slightly to achieve this balance.

As for the title, I struggled a bit here, but as I recently became enamoured with the word "ensorcelled" after reading it in an old comic book (a freelance comic editor has to know his they're fun to read), and it suited the "magic" at play in this poem, I resolved my dilemma by incorporating it into the title. "Cherry Green" could've stood as the title of the poem itself, or simply "Ensorcelled", but by combining the two I think I underscore that theme of the power of words. Plus, I just like the title.

Editor’s Note:  The “colorful” spelling of “colour” is an affectation of the poet.  Also, I decided not to have a graphic accompany this post, as doing so might bias the reader and ruin the fun that would otherwise occur when reading this poem.  For what it is worth, I almost immediately thought of those horrible green cherries that are found in traditional fruitcake.

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