The eighth section of Nathaniel Tarn's sequence Dying Trees is titled "Unravelling / Shock." Dying Trees was first published as a chapbook in 2003; later, in 2008, it was included entirely in Tarn's New Directions book, Ins and Outs of the Forest Rivers. When the Dying Trees sequence was still unpublished, Tarn gave a reading at the Kelly Writers House (2002) during which he read several sections of the then-new poem, including the one discussed here by Marcella Durand, Burt Kimmelman, Erin Gautsche, and PoemTalk's producer and host, Al Filreis.
The setting is certainly Tarn's parched American southwest. Drought is killing the trees; a cancer diagnosis is delivered; nationalism has brought more warring. The convergence of the three forms a "web." "A hole [has been] torn in the fabric of the world." News travels bodily; leaders fail to lead; beetles pierce bark; a demonic mouse – "wee" and yet terribly efficacious – compounds the morbidity to the point of body-snatching. It happens as an ecological, medical, and political simultaneity, and the speaker is not in a state to be much concerned about keeping the categories separate. Thus the poem is itself "the whole infernal weave" – a quality more obvious in this eighth section of the poem than in others.
Quotation from a poem by Sir Walter Scott printed on the final page of a report published by the Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), Review of the Scientific and Cultural Conference for World Peace, arranged by the National Council of the Arts, Sciences, and Professions, and held in New York City, March 25, 26, and 27, 1949 (Washington, D.C.: Committee on Un-American Activities, U.S. House of Representatives, 1950 [originally released, April 19, 1949]), p. :
Breathes there the man, with soul so dead, Who never to himself hath said, This is my own, my native land! Whose heart hath ne'er within him burn'd As home his footsteps he hath turn'd, From wandering on a foreign strand? If such there breathe, go, mark him well; For him no minstrel raptures swell; High though his titles, proud his name, Boundless his wealth as wish can claim,-- Despite those titles, power, and pelf, The wretch, concentred all in self, Living, shall forfeit fair renown, And, doubly dying, shall go down To the vile dust, from whence he sprung, Unwept, unhonour'd, and unsung. --Scott
They could not Stop from their Ethos of Oppression.
Then I saw America, dressing in all White,
Settling through the West with a Blinding Light.
[end with a philosophic pause]
Harriet Monroe, in her Introduction to Vachel Lindsay's 1915 volume The Congo and Other Poems wrote: "They are destined to a wider and higher influence; in fact, the development of that influence, the return to primitive sympathies between artist and audience, which may make possible once more the assertion of primitive creative power, is recognized as the immediate movement in modern art."
The "They" in my revision of the chorus of Lindsay's "The Congo" (a poem that you need to listen to to fully experience) and in the above passage from Monroe, refers to the White Poets Society, a not so secret multi-national society of white poets who aim to assert primitive and occult creative powers.