Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Big Smoke: "Fisticuffs"

 [The Big Smoke reading group

"Fisticuffs" closes this first section of poems in Adrian Matejka’s The Big Smoke, just before we leave Jack Johnson entering another phase of his life. We discover Johnson's matured identity as a fighter, particularly who he is and is not.

Johnson, now an established prize fighter, has named his left hook “Clara,” after his first love. He reveals that she stole his heart and more: "I took a train all the way to St. Louis / to get her back, just so she could take / the rest of my money & leave again."

What did you think of this language practice or moment of wordplay with Johnson naming a powerful punch after a black woman that hurt him?

--Jeremiah Carter and Howard Rambsy II 

19 comments:

Dross84 said...

I can understand why he named his signature punch after his first love "Clara". She destroyed him mentally, she took his heart and his money and left so in him naming his punch that it's almost like when throwing "Clara" he's putting his opponent in the physical form of pain that she inflicted upon him mentally.

Travon Wilson said...

I think it was very clever. Thats something i would do name a punch that i knows hurts someone bad as Clara hurt me...as he said "no man met Clara & was still standing" so when ever he threw that punch the other man was going down.

Anonymous said...

Lucas Reincke said...

To me, how he worded this poem and executed his story about how he boxes is very interesting to me. The narrator is a counter striker, and uses a counter left hook to finish opponents typically. How he incorporates this fighting style with a woman who hurt him is very intriguing because we all go through heartbreak in some form or another. Most times we cannot forget about this heartbreak, and he kind of uses his boxing style and his signature move as an in memory of what he lost from this woman who he loved dearly, and took everything away from him.

Quentin Wilson said...

I think naming his punch Clara was clever, considering how bad she hurt him. The punch is suppose to hurt other boxers physically as Clara hurt him mentally. I also think that no man getting up from the punch is a symbolism to how he never recovered from Clara.

Evan Townzen said...

Heartbreak goes hand and hand with pain. To name left hook after a lover who broke your heart and took your money is poetically beautiful. Fists hurt, and so does Clara. His left hook sneaks up on his opponent the same way Clara snuck up on him. He extended himself and she took his heart, now his left hook does the taking.

Nicholas M. said...

The meaning behind his left hook "Clara" is very interesting. According to Johnson, he has a mean left hook "No man met my Clara and was still standing." Therefore, naming a punch that can cause so much pain to his opponents is very fitting because Clara caused him so much pain in his life.

ricky wells said...

Joe was a clean fighter who revolutionized boxing by dodging and countering punches. Also the title of the poem puts more emphasis on Joe's fighting style, saying that he only fought with his hands and was not a dirty boxer.


RICKY WELLS

J.Shaw said...

The narrator's quivering left hook, named Clara after his previous mate, is a representation of his own personal experience with her. Just like she mentally attacked him; that left hook strikes others just as hard in a physical state, to represent how she affected him mentally. "No man met my Clara & was still standing to talk about it" (Matejka, 18). The narrator was "hit" hard once by Clara; never able to bounce back, and now every person he comes in contact with while fighting will feel the same hurt and unrecoverable pain he went through.

Denzel Barnes said...

I think his he named his punch Clara was because he made it seemed like it could never miss. This probably mentally made him believe that "Clara" was one of a kind and always came in and blind sighted her target. Clara is what destroyed him and he used it to make one of his most lethal punch.

Isaiah Person said...

Isaiah Person
The fighter named his left hook after his first love "Clara" because she used him for his money and left him with nothing. His punch leaves you with nothing, especially your conciseness.

Robert F said...

I felt like naming the punch Clara was appropriate. She left a devastating impact on him. He wants to describe his punch as devastating, so it fits nicely. If any man meets his "Clara", they will lose. Nothing positive can come from "Clara" and she leaves destruction behind every time shes meets a man. Now the boxer is just introducing other men to "Clara".

Christian Watts said...

I feel as though he named the punch after his ex because she caused him so much pain, and every time he has a fight he is able to release that pain on his opponent. He is still able to release the pain because he is still in love and it haunts him daily.
Christian

Darien Wilson said...

I interpret him naming his punch after Clara as him wanting to inflict as much pain on to his opponent as Clara inflicted to his heart.

Deandre Howard said...

The word play makes sense. He was Hurt by his love, Clara, who broke his heart twice. It caused him great pain. He wants a punch that can do as much pain as she caused.

Ergo, He wants the physical pain of his fist to be just as powerful as Clara's heartbreak.

Darius Randell said...

I like How he connected his love life to his love of boxing. It made sense, it caught him off guard so the move should catch his opponents off guard as well.

Xavier Robinson said...

I noticed how naming his fists Clara had a meaning to it because Clara was the woman that broke his heart so he wants everyone who he punches to feel the pain that he did. The title of the poem Fisticuffs can relate to the power of his fists and the handcuffs on his heart.

Joey N said...

I think that it is very meaningful that he named his signature punch "Clara" after his former lover that broke his heart. It's meaningful because when he throws the punch he wants to hurt his opponent just like Clara hurt him.

Jeremy H said...

I think the fact that a woman is named after a prize fighter's left hook speaks volumes to that woman. He uses it as a metaphor for the pain he felt when she broke his heart. Symbolism at its finest.

Jeremy H

Deonte Young said...

this punched was named after "clara" because she had great value to him and when she left it was like a powerful punch it his emotions so he decided to name the powerful punch after her and her power over him