SHARKPACK Poetry Review

An imprint of FATHOMBOOKS.

Stephanie Rose Adams’ “The Honey Jar”

Salient in Ezra Pound’s too-profuse stream of Modernist poetic dictates is his admonishment that poetry be ‘as well written as prose.’ What’s most amazing about the surety of his directive is its absolute vagary: Moby-Dick is not ‘well written’ in the way that Austen is, nor Melmoth the Wanderer, nor Walden, nor even “Bartleby, the Scrivener.” This may account for the dissipation of Pound’s Imagist group in general; more likely, however, such attempts to make of poetry a calculus fail because, as Dickinson intimates, the ‘Possibility’ of poetry is ‘a fairer house than Prose’—the kind of prose that imagines itself erected on reason alone, at least (which, of course, Moby-Dick or To the Lighthouse or Wuthering Heights never did).

Stephanie Rose Adams’ “The Honey Jar” strikes me as a poem whose power accumulates via ‘possibility,’ ambience, charges. Lain down ‘dripping’ in darkness for a century, this ‘strange one’—who acts as a kind of ghost protagonist in “The Honey Jar,” commanding the pace of the poem from a deeply inhabited silence, one with the force of a relic—is importantly devoid of a readable ‘history’ outside his dying. He projects from ‘death’s hard yellow womb,’ ‘mellified . . . folded and macerated’—Adams’ refusal to locate the subject as king or peasant or regular unfortunate transforms a would-be colonialist exhumation narrative into Death’s—or is it Sublimnity’s?—paean.

Adams handles the resulting ‘reveal’ (‘the underground-of-man, the sea’) like an adept psychologist: the ‘cold’ fear of the tradesmen becomes ‘feign[ed] cool waiting and looking about’—one can’t help but recognize the method of blasé repose that keeps us, ourselves, distant and safe from the sincerity that wonder demands. The echo of Dickinson’s [372]

First—Chill—then Stupor—then the letting go—

is likewise impossible to ignore, whatever its in-poem origin.

Of the many things the resultant ‘lingering stink of the living’ might imply—that the once-life and resonance of this mummified man might stay with the tradesmen, that their own continuance as men living in the world is suddenly more electric to their senses—I like to sit with one result of “The Honey Jar” best: that, given the chance to investigate the historical antecedent of the poem (if there was one), the poem itself, its own ‘distant color/come too near’ was absolutely adequate; that Adams’ metaphysik, stanza by stanza, convinced me its particular method of ‘telling’ is knowledge enough.

3 responses to “Stephanie Rose Adams’ “The Honey Jar””

  1. Joe darling–you’re as scary now as you were then. 🙂

  2. I would say that Moby Dick is well-written in that it fully engages me as a reader. I think it interesting in regards to ‘classics,’ that many people can’t stand a certain works. I like parts of The Great Gatsby, but for me it fails as a whole. I think you should include more snippets and analysis of this poem. I like your opening very much.

    I would say that poetry is harder than fiction in that every word is important to rhythm and meaning.


  3. I feel similarly about GATSBY in particular—it operates more like a piece of historical fiction than real literature. Also: I don’t happen to care about the minor loves and intrigues of rich people. The last two paragraphs of that novel are completely unearned.

    Thanks for your thoughtful response, Lucy.

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