[The Big Smoke reading group]
"The Manly Art of Self-Defense," from Adrian Matejka's The Big Smoke, offers an account of a "professional" fight involving Jack Johnson. In this poem, the audience witnesses Johnson as an early fighter. Matejka's presentation of Johnson points out the secrecy surrounding the sport.
In the poem and among the people, “self-defense” is the code term for prize fighting, and the visiting opponent or challenger is the evening's "instructor." Ironically, Matejka's Johnson is a young fighter in the poem, and from the first-person perspective, Johnson is learning from his experienced opponent/instructor. Johnson recounts the final lesson of the visiting instructor, Chrysanthemum Joe, in the poem's last two stanzas: "He told me, A man that can / move like you should never take a punch."
Beyond the presentation of Johnson's opponent as his instructor, what other example of covert language or multiple uses of words and phrasings stood out to you from the poem? Why or how so?