Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Summer Hat
A poem (2002)
By Peter Menkin

There, the light tan. Putting it on his head
he comes to pay, and bowing at the register
profers the money. Happy is he who has a new hat.

Wearing the hat,
jaunty, the man
walks down the store aisle with a new step.

Makes for doing a little dance.

Notes from a discussion of the poem on the Academy of American Poets writers workshop ( ) .

Willi Gian (poet) says:
The language seems ponderous and verbose to me. For example:

he comes to pay, and bowing at the register (why does he bow)
profers the money (what else would he pay with).

All that has been said is: he went to the register and paid for the hat.

Happy is he who has a new hat. Stilted, I think. A new hat makes a man happy.

and so on......I like hats and know what you are talking about....but this is
not a good fit....w.....

Peter says:
What good suggestions and criticism. The poem is an amusement, so I am not too serious with it. The language adds to the humor, so I thought. As for the culture, or practices of the man buying the hat, I could make some guesses why he bowed. But he did. I suppose the formality of so common an act, and its importance, adds to the poetic dimension. Or so was my ambition.

With thanks for your criticism and suggestions,
Yours truly,

Peter says:
Sometimes people come to the register to pay. At Sears, the register is in an area of about 10 square feet, and frequently they come to ask a question, like how much is this? Or they want to talk (yes, talk to pass some time sometimes), ask a question, like Where are refrigerators? They don't always come to the register at Sears to pay.

Note that the tone of the poem sets a humorous and almost kind of satiric note about the plain jane (some call dowdy) Sears & Robuck. Customers who like this man, and they are few, consider the store a formal place, but it is not an upper crust shop (big building, too, by the way). How people enter into the formal side of shopping is also highlighted by the kind of "ponderous" language used in the store--the almost stereotype of the comic elite store manager portrayal.

My hope is in gently mocking, yet still communicating the Sears experience in an amusing slant will put a shopping and human perspective on the smaller side of ordinary life. Afterall, a hat at Sears is not a chapeau (did I even spell the word right?)

I do appreciate your serious stance in critting the poem. It is complimentary to be taken seriously, and I am grateful for both your comment and the spirit within which it is made. Maybe you are right, too?
Yours truly,

Photograph: Peter Menkin in Television Sales Department, Sears, San Rafael, CA USA (north of San Francisco). 1999. Note the poem was written some time later, hat buy done in Men's Clothing Department, same store.

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