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The Mysterious Naked Man -- Alden Nowlan

Guest poem submitted by Alison Lang:
(Poem #824) The Mysterious Naked Man
 A mysterious naked man has been reported
 on Cranston Avenue. The police are performing
 the usual ceremonies with coloured lights and sirens.
 Almost everyone is outdoors and strangers are conversing
   excitedly
 as they do during disasters when their involvement is
   peripheral.
 'What did he look like?' the lieutenant is asking.
 'I don't know,' says the witness. 'He was naked.'
 There is talk of dogs--this is no ordinary case
 of indecent exposure, the man has been seen
 a dozen times since the milkman spotted him and now
 the sky is turning purple and voices
 carry a long way and the children
 have gone a little crazy as they often do at dusk
 and cars are arriving
 from other sections of the city.
 And the mysterious naked man
 is kneeling behind a garbage can or lying on his belly
 in somebody's garden
 or maybe even hiding in the branches of a tree,
 where the wind from the harbour
 whips at his naked body,
 and by now he's probably done
 whatever it was he wanted to do
 and wishes he could go to sleep
 or die
 or take to the air like Superman.
-- Alden Nowlan
I don't know too much about Alden Nowlan, although in Canada he can often be
found in the ubiquitous poetry books we have to use for school. We have the
mandatory Canadian poetic stalwarts: Atwood, Cohen, Ondaatje, and then
there's poor Mr. Nowlan, in the background.

Nowlan's poetry has always appealed to me because of its absolute frankness.
He is a very honest poet. His writing is sparse but every word seems to go
out on a small, lovely errand. Nowlan strikes me as an observer, and much of
his poetry recounts everyday events, with a little quirk that makes them
instantly extraordinary and unforgettable. He is delightful, and this poem
is one of my favorites. It's both funny and poignant, two attributes Nowlan
balances easily in his writing.

Alison.

[Minstrels Links]

See the Canadian theme from last month:
Poem #781, The Law of the Yukon -- Robert Service
Poem #782, National Identity -- F. R. Scott
Poem #783, Northwest Passage -- Stan Rogers
Poem #784, To a Millionaire -- Archibald Lampman
Poem #786, Post-card -- Margaret Atwood
Poem #787, Seagulls -- E. J. Pratt
Poem #789, The Social Plan -- Stephen Leacock

84 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Rachel Sherman said...

You posted Alden Nowlan's poem on this site: The Mysterious Naked Man. I wish to share one of his meanings for this poem. I was his sister-by-choice (known in his poetry as Sylvia), and Alden occasionally used to have me read from his 3 ring book of unpublished poems. He would tell me to get the book, and then stand (as we did in school when reading) and read the piece.
I read it aloud the first time I saw it. He was of course the man of which he wrote. He had exposed himself, his inner self, his mind, his imagination, his ideas, his real self. He had expressed that, and first one person and then more began to gather to catch a glimpse of these ideas. He is then wishing he'd said nothing.

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