August 3, 2009
As soon as my dreams
Get lodged in the trees,
I’ll thank God for His grace
And pray for a breeze.
If the gale doesn’t come,
I’ll point up my bum.
Toot my dreams loose
And return where I’m from.
I have broken the wind
Shattered branches and limbs
Pick up the pieces
And start over again.
– Jeff Konkle
Critics have often lambasted Jeff Konkle’s works calling them as overly simplistic or pedantic. His rudimentary approach to rhyme schematics and imagery leave many wondering why he is considered an artist at all. Where is the depth in his verse? Where are the lasting images? The sonorous wordplay?
Jeff Konkle’s reputation is one that, fortunately for him, precedes him. He is a well-known raconteur, whose temerity when it comes to matters of fiction and prose is so germane to our times that he has successfully surfed on the wave of his own PR. But too many times we extol the image or symbol of a poet and let the works themselves go by unscathed. Is “The Breeeze” one of those turgid pieces, inflated by the author’s ego, or does it actually fit into the catalog of meaningful poetry?
Konkle’s rhyme scheme in “The Breeeze” is very simple. AABA. It has a certain rustic quality of a Scottish limerick. There once was a man from Nantucket. This is a return to the classical form of rhyme. His choice for this scheme sheds the imagined importance of blank or free verse. Instead, it returns poetry to what drew the masses of people to it in the first place: the syncopated rhythm of spoken words. The barren fluency presented in “The Breeeze” is a statement about the poetry scene as a whole. We’ve become in love with ourselves, Konkle seems to say.
This narcissism, the use of extremely obscure vocabulary words and “complicated” meter, is what ultimately turns most people off to the art form. The audience declines to listen and the works become less and less relevant. Reacting to this ostracizing, the poetry community instead ossifies and makes things even more rigid and inaccessible. Konkle’s aim is to reach an olive branch (or a beer glass) to the masses and remove the patina of intellectual superiority that poets often hold over those not in the clique.
His appeal to the Everyman starts in the very first stanza. The protagonist’s ambitions and hopes are too lofty in this scenario and as a result they become stuck in trees. Trees are an effective metaphor because they can represent a duality of human obstacles: the high branches, perhaps referring to God, spirituality, or morality; and earthly roots which are the more procedural and bureaucratic hurdles that one must overcome to achieve one’s aspirations.
Konkle’s final lines of the first stanza seem to say that he is referring to the latter, as the protagonist takes an initially fatalistic stance on the status of his fate and implores the Almighty to relinquish him from his torpor.
In a move reminiscent of the story of Job in the Bible; the protagonist thanks God even though he has been obstructed. Is this unyielding loyalty an attribute that we as the audience should admire or pity?
The second stanza implies an urgency often experience by a living person. I cannot wait for God’s will any longer because I am running out of time, Konkle implies.
The following lines are blasphemous in their content yet relevant in their presentation. The protagonist raises his rear end to the sky. He prepares to fire a vortex of flatulence into the trees that confine his destiny. This statement is doubly important because it not only skewers organized religion in a disdainful and pernicious manner but it also is a call to action to all those who seek answers from other beings, supernatural or otherwise. Even the title’s extra “e” paints the picture of an impatient man wincing as he cuts the cheese in his Maker’s general direction.
The protagonist (or antagonist depending on the religiosity of the reader) then delivers on his threat. He farts with so much force that it literally rips the tree asunder. The onomatopoeia in parentheses suggests that the blast is powerful and bold “(FRRRT)”. The three “R’s” perhaps represent the Holy Trinity. It is followed by an insulting squeak “(frt)” . This is no feckless milksop who allows his path to be chosen for him. Our protagonist assumes the role of God and becomes master of his own fate. The poem’s conclusion also poses an interesting paradox: are the winds of the Earth really just God dropping air biscuits on all of us?
The ambiguity presented by Konkle is what makes the poem so compelling. He also leaves us with the thought that this may be a never-ending cycle. Is life a circle in which man strives against outside forces that block him constantly? Are we cursed to repeat this process? Do we need more fiber in our diet?
Some critics might find this imagery or actions appalling, saying that the poem’s content relegates itself to a bathroom stall. However, one of the only constants in great literature throughout the centuries is that fecal references are always effective in terms of humor. One only has to look at some of the raunchier (and subsequently most popular) Greek comedies to see that this is true. From Aristophanes to the Aristocrats, scatological humor is the vessel in which many great authors have transported their important messages.
Konkle’s “The Breeeze” is not grandiloquent in style or pompous in its scheme. Rather, the simplicity of the lines makes the bold statement, the sagacious jab at lofty targets. Konkle is not one of the maudlin poets of recent generations who view the public as implacable and uninterested. He reaches out from the musty basement of the ivory tower and gives the audience a “Breeeze,” a breath of fresh air.
– Dr. Michael Balzary PH.D.
Ed. Note- Linked below is a paper on scatological humor throughout the ages. It’s a short read and it’s pretty interesting: