Themes and Meanings

There are considerable chunks of apparently meaningful syntax in “Remove the Predicate.” The poem may lack one single overarching meaning—most of Coolidge’s poems do, since he has set his face against such—but to do its dance, the poem needs a number of partners. It needs the initial question, in order for the rest of the poem to have something to catch against, like a flywheel; it also needs those other pieces for the flywheel to drive. There appear to be themes: the theme of the past being of no possible use to the present, and the idea that the opposite of that opinion may also be true.

The clearest statement one can make about this poem is that when in Rome, one finds much “built of under”—of meanings and materials beneath other such items—and will “look under things” while there. Elements of the surreal complicate the plot. “Documents” that are “cut and parcelled/ out of well water” cannot occur in nature. “Hoops of tell” and “fear weed” also exist only in language, although one can surmise metaphorical meanings for them. That will remain a personal and private act. Common agreement can hardly be the hope of the poet when writing those phrases.

Quite the opposite is true. The matter of personal knowledge being largely tacit informs Coolidge’s operations, creating poems that defy a unified interpretation. One must replace the predicate with oneself.