A Shining Moment
The first stanza has images from one of Chalke's favorite books, "The Whole Earth Catalog," which had a story in it about a red tent, and a long discussion about the space within the tent, and whether it was the same room, or a different room each time. He read that to us as we worked on one assignment in class. Many of the words in this stanza, like "bizarre", "lyrical", and "absurd" were words of praise he'd use in critiques; "Phenomena" was a magazine he subscribed to, full of people spontaneously combusting, migrating logs, and other such tales he found fascinating and hilarious.This is a poem that works for a number of people, who all imagine the shopkeeper in his window getting help from a stranger on the street one early, rainy morning. I am happy that this is the image they get, since this was the feeling of the actual experience. John Chalke found himself walking through the rain early one morning (about 4 am), when he saw Claes Oldenberg setting up his new show. He stopped and watched through the great glass panes, until Oldenberg gestured to him, and they collaborated in the setup, without a word passing between them. To my knowledge, they never met beyond that one encounter. While I originally named Oldenberg in the poem, I found it distracted from the central experience: it works much better giving the characters some anonymity.
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