Posted by: John Looker | 1 January, 2013

HOTSHOT

Poem number 6 in this series, looking at various states of mind we may encounter through work:

HOTSHOT  

Relax at last! Never was it more deserved.
          
The principal seat is yours by right
and here’s a glass of Veuve Cliquot, your preferred
choice of Grandes Marques. Your team sit about
            chatting, snacking
            on caviar canapés,
smiling like smiles had just been invented tonight.  

The final talks were seldom free from doubt.
            For months however it was chess you played,
building a position in strength, working out
all the possible consequential moves.
            Here it was poker,
            a pas de deux,
and working at night on top of the gruelling days.  

The field is yours! You may turn your horse’s hooves.
            Already the little Cessna climbs
and banks in a soaring curve that joyously disproves
the doubters. Turn your tired face to the window:
            forests and lakes,
            mountains and coast
fall away … and this is the best of times.

© John Stevens 2013

There’s just one more poem to come in this batch: ‘Baker’ – the culmination – in a couple of weeks’ time.

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Responses

  1. Hi John, I like the rhythm very much. The hotshots 🙂 they rule the landscape. “Turn your tired face” so they are not always on top of the world! I think this means they are only human afterall? 🙂

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  2. Very well put together, John. Overnight success takes many years and a lot of hard work.

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    • Thanks John – that’s a neat way of putting it!

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  3. a good start to the year John

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  4. Your “moral” art is on display here, John, if only because art if faithful to reality is unforgiving! By withholding details — these could be legitimate businessmen or crooks or what used to be called statesmen — you put us face to face with the moment. And yet somehow — which is not to suggest that it is ambiguous — we feel the rush of pride and relief. A vindication of mimesis, perhaps!

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    • I’m rather relieved you find that these people could be in any of a number of walks of life, Tom. That’s what I have hoped for. Thanks for your comment.

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  5. In this poem it’s the doubters that catch my attention most, they seem to threaten the well deserved rest, or somehow to undermine “the best of times”. (Also, I really enjoyed your punctuation and your indentations…). I enjoy reading your poems!

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  6. Thank you so much for that encouragement Anna. I like that perspective on this poem too.

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  7. I wonder about the narrator of this poem. Who is speaking here? Perhaps it’s because I’m doing the same wondering about the ‘Little Girls, Little Boys’ poem I just wrote that I’m overly sensitive to the issue, for of course they are very different poems. (Or are they? especially from a moral perspective.) In my case I might answer that the poem is of a kind of gauze over a wound and the narrator is the ‘poem-itself’—at least it is written from that perspective. I won’t go attributing such sophistical notions to you, John, but when Tom D’Elevyn speaks of art that is faithful to reality as being unforgiving, he makes a similar point. I think.
    So, there are two people in this poem we have to think about, the narrator and the hotshot. We know everything we know about the hotshot from the narrator, and more importantly, he’s responsible for everything we don’t know as well. And we don’t know a lot. His name; his game; and his fame. As Tom points out, we’re not sure if we’re involved with a legitimate businessman, a crook, or a statesman. We know he has just achieved something that made him a lot of money and that he has expensive tastes. We’re told: ‘The principal seat is yours’. (A principal seat: we are not talking about the chair where the guy who runs the high school sits.) ‘By right’. (Because of all that hard work? What does ‘by right’ mean, anyway?) ‘The field is yours.’ (No, we’re not talking about a football match.) And we’re told these things even though it is the hotshot who is seemingly being addressed. We’re just overhearing.
    A question I wonder about—who does work harder, the person who owns the company, or the person who comes in to clean the office after hours? In this case, they must have passed in the hall.
    The narrator is not the janitor, however. He’s being a little sycophantic, for sure, but he, I’d say is being genuine in his admiration. And he’s expressing his thoughts elegantly, formally, in a nicely constructed poem.
    The narrator is also not the author of the poem. It’s not altogether clear what the author thinks of the hotshot. This strikes me as exactly right. Everybody’s happy. The Cessna is already in flight. You doubters out there, check out those smiles.
    But is this poem about the hotshot? We’re told by Mr. Stevens that this is a series of poems about ‘various states of mind we may encounter through work.’ Clearly the state of mind being portrayed is the narrator.
    I can’t wait to see ‘Baker’. And forget the pas de duex. Let’s form a conga line.
    (By the way there is stunning short story called ‘A Small Good Thing’ by Raymond Carver that features a baker. You might want to look at it.)

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    • I am in your debt again, Jim, for the thought you give to something I have written. Thank you. I’ve gone back to reread your own recent poem afresh and look at it with the question of the narrator in mind. Perhaps this question is posed whenever a poet writes without saying ‘me’ and ‘I’ – and it allows several possibilities: the narrator could be the writer themself, or writer and reader together, or an imagined person, or humanity at large. In this particular poem I dodged the issue; any of those are possible; but I had in my own mind some third person speaking, praising the ‘hotshot’ for his or her triumph, like a poet reciting a classical ode on the return of a conquering hero.
      I must look up that Raymond Carver story.

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  8. I enjoyed this take on life John.

    Sir Alex Ferguson came to my mind on first reading and I have not been able to shake him off in subsequent readings!!! 🙂

    Happy New Year to you

    David

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    • Can anyone shake off Sir Alex Ferguson?!
      Happy new year to you too David.

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  9. “The field is yours!” I love the boldness of that statement… it jumps out nicely and leads into the last line perfectly.

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  10. Just came by to read again ; )

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  11. Hmmm, John. I am struggling to keep up with everything and anything with health issues again. I’m still at work too, although I am moving down to 3 days a week the week of April 8th.
    The question is, am I really up to this poem? I’ve experienced states like what you portray here in the past: Almost euphoria, the feeling of great success, and even the feeling of being a principle at the height of his powers. Unfortunately, these feelings have never, as I remember them anyway, lasted over a day, and then reality has always stepped in and ended the hotshot feeling. Perhaps, though, that is what the line,
    “Turn your tired face to the window”
    sets up. Triumph is glorious, but the effort of
    “working at night on top of the grueling days”
    sets us up for the reality to come even as
    “Your team sit about
    chatting, snacking
    on caviar canapés,
    smiling like smiles had just been invented tonight.”
    Jim is right to note that the narrator is writing about the character in the poem. The hotshot is not writing the poem. I take the poem as saying that the hotshot is humanity after the moment of triumph, however that triumph comes. The narrator is simply describing the emotions (with a touch of the whirlpools) that come to all of us in the first blush of hard-won success.
    In my current mood I am about as far away from feeling that
    “The field is yours! You may turn your horse’s hooves”
    but the poem, with its metaphor of flight in a small Cessna, not a jumbo jet, a plane that crashes more often than the big commercial jets, certainly echoes a chord of remembrance in me that generates a chagrined emotion. Yes, there have been times like that, even if the moment of triumph has always passed by while times keeps us hurtling down the path we are on.
    Thus, as usual, what John Stevens presents a a simple, straightforward work is actually a lot more complicated, and meaningful, than a surface reading would give it.

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    • Hello Tom. It’s very good of you to take the time and trouble to comment. I do hope things go well for you. I’m sure by the way that this Hotshot poem is an appropriate one for you; you’ve clearly got the measure of it!

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