First, a word of warning. Please excuse me if this post seems a little foggy. I’m writing through a fever induced haze but have injected myself with enough coffee from my ‘Poe me Another’ cup to become functional. Since the assignment is due today,, I figured it best to trudge through and hope that the general idea is intel liable. If it’s not, I’m sure someone will let me know.
I’ve chosen to focus on Memphis Resurrection by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers because of its wit and feeling. Honestly, living forever, physically existing until the end of all things, would probably suck. It’s not like the metaphorical ‘living forever’ in someone’s memory or through one’s great acts (whether good or evil) or even having bits and pieces of you tucked up by the living Earth to be continuously recycled into something new. No, the poem displays actually possessing a human and sentient life FOREVER. Elvis is portrayed after only a few extra decades as already disenchanted, he even asks “Why/ did I want to live/ forever in the first place?” Well, Mr. Presley, vanity fanned by fame can do that to a person.
I think the poem succeeds is reminding the reader of the folly inherent in the pursuit of fame, as well as the desire to ‘live forever.’ How can one become a cherished memory if one is still banging around and sadly “singing/ cracked Mississippi/ homilies”? I also believe that the poem works well as a poem, considering the speaker. Elvis, though depicted here as a run-down second rate liar, did show some sort of true talent, even if I personally have no idea what that may have been. He was before my time, unless of course he is actually still alive…. That’s beside the point. In order to write successful song lyrics, there has to be a sort of poetry within the words themselves that works with the music of the song. Without the song of the words, there’s just music and words, not a song. Lyrics to songs are often just patterned, repeated, sometimes rhymed, and formatted groups of words, poems in their own right, and it’s logical and a bit of a homage to the old man to write his worn out life view in a poem. As if to imply that he still in fact has some spark, even if he’s realized that most of what he did and stood for was an illusion.
Would the poem work as a short story? Maybe, there would need to be a lot of additional information, meat on the bones, something more for us to understand how he got to where he is and why he decided to stay there. Could it work as a piece of non-fiction? I doubt that. While it may befit the reader to know more about Elvis’ life, like some hard concrete details, they don’t really add to the feeling of self-doubt, tiredness, and depression that he shows. Anyone could read this, even having no idea who Elvis is, and know the way the speaker is feeling.
Writing a poem from within a long dead (maybe?) musicians head has some serious disadvantages. For one, the poet has to know actually factual details about the subject in order to fully understand how he or she would react to the given situation. Even then it’s really just guessing and imagination because Elvis isn’t here to ask. Using a poem, specifically, while advantageous as far as getting around the feeling and form of music, may present some struggles for the author. If the musician had, while still alive, written any poetry and thus developed a voice and style, the author of the persona work would have to remain loyal to that voice (at least in some way) in order for the poem to be believable as coming from the musician’s head and not the poet’s. Stepping into someone else’s head and taking over their poetic voice can be extremely challenging, and I applaud Honoree Fanonne Jeffers for doing so.
Sarah Ockershausen Delp
Jeffers, Honree Fanonne. “Mephis Resurrection.” 200. Poetry Foundation. Web. Jan 2017. <https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/52636>.
**Honoree Fanonne Jeffers, “Memphis Resurrection” from The Gospel of Barbecue. Copyright © 2000 by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers. Reprinted by permission of The Kent State University Press