If you haven’t figured out yet that I hope to expand your definition of poetry this month, you will by the end of this post. Because the poet I have for you today is (drum roll) Phillip Pullman. I know, I know, he’s not a poet. He’s a novelist. Most famous for the Sally Lockhart books and the His Dark Materials trilogy, Pullman is one of the most eloquent and poetic authors I have ever read.
To prove it to you, I trekked through spiders and weeds and moldy stairs (oh my!) to find my battered copy of His Dark Matierals in the storage room where I thought it was. Keyword: thought. Today, my lack of excerpt is less due to copyright issue than the mere fact that I have lost my book.
Now, before you go declaring “blasphemy!” about misplacing a favorite novel, let me remind you that I have moved at least twice in the last year, both times to a smaller space than before (hence why the book is now in storage, as opposed to on my shelf, where there is now only room for the dozen or so books I am currently reading.) Furthermore, being a favorite means I am more likely to pick it up, re-read it, lend it out, or reference it to quote at unsuspecting passersby. Therefore, there are all manner of reasons I may have not placed it back where it belonged–safely nestled amongst my religious texts (because I like irony.) Instead, the only non-religious books I found there were Where the Sidewalk Ends and Introductory Phonology, neither of which is a surprise.
So, rather than letting the words speak for themselves (which I never do anyway) I will explain to you my journey through The Amber Spyglass. Note: This is the third book in the series, and the part of which I am about to speak is rather close to the end, so if you have not read it, you may wish to skip down to my poem and avoid the spoilers. Give them a moment… Okay. I do not usually cry at books. I have become more of a sap at the ripe old of 22 and cry more at movies than I used to, but books still have their work cut out for them. The only book I can remember crying over was Calico Bush by Rachel Field, and I bawled over it. In fact, I don’t remember Pullman making me cry in The Amber Spyglass, though he may have. But he did worse than that anyway: he broke my soul.
At the end of The Amber Spyglass, our protagonists are on their way to the land of the dead, and in journeying there, must, more or less, rip their souls from their bodies. This is very painful experience. Trust me, I’ve done it. Because as the boat is carrying them away from the land of the living, Will and Lyra suddenly feel themselves being torn from their souls. And Pullman described this in such elegant detail that I felt true heartbreak. My chest literally ached with pain, like someone had reached inside and scooped out my heart, or like it had been sucked into a black hole, which was slowly pulling in the rest of me from the inside out. Other than that day, I have (unsurprisingly) only felt this feeling during times of death. A true master of words, I have since declared that I will read anything he writes. Spoiler over.
In keeping with the theme of prose and novels, today’s poem comes from Maureen Thorson’s Day Four Prompt, to write a poem titled after a spaceship from an Iain M. Banks work. I chose one of the ones which she listed, A Series of Unlikely Explanations, which reminded me of another work of fiction I enjoyed reading, around the same time I read Pullman for the first time. I am speaking, of course, of Lemony Snickett’s famous Series of Unfortunate Events. As such, I decided to merge the two, though a couple facts from the book are altered/rearranged for the sake of the poem:
A Series of Unlikely Explanations
We ran away because he had a tattoo of an eye.
The snake wasn’t poisonous at all,
but was afraid of everything, including the sky,
and he tried to hypnotize us in the fall.
We left school due to a bad violin
and a sixteen story elevator shaft.
We got pinned for murder, much to our chagrin,
and had to escape as hospital staff!
We stole food from a carnival, that was dandy.
(The dead triplet can easily explain.)
But several days later, the wasabi came in handy,
though the books in the lake no longer remain.
There were only thirteen, you can’t expect me to say more.