I've had a poetry itch for months now and I've been cruising blogs and reading a lot of online but hesitant to say anything because I suck at reading poetry and I'm acutely aware of this fact. I've check out a copy of The Best American Poetry 2012 edited by Mark Doty and David Lehman. I only know one name of the contributors and not because I'm familiar with her work rather I know her personally from my writer's group. (And if you don't know her, in recent months Natasha Trethewey has become a really big deal. Congrats!)
I like how clean and concise poetry is and how it can be open to interpretation. I like narrative or humorous poems better than dark and brooding. I hate the obscure, seemingly random punctuation, indentation, and inexplicable word placement on a page. That's about as in-depth as I can express my preferences in poetry. It's odd how I can talk more about a well made doble bock or rum than a poem.
I like this particular collection because it seems to be varied in subject matter and presentation. I really like how the authors contribute their thoughts on the poem chosen for inclusion as it helps me better understand their work. I find some poems that I think are amazing and I re read them five or six times or until I get desensitized to how amazing I originally thought it was. Some poems I don't get; I move on. Some poems I don't get and they manage to make me angry. Some poems I don't get and I say, "What the hell was that?" But it's worth it to find the ones I enjoy.
Since I suck so much ass at telling you why I like the poetry I like I thought I'd share a few. The ones I'm sharing are short because I'm too lazy to write out the longer ones. I don't claim to understand these poems; only that they got a reaction out of me in some way or another. These are but a few from this anthology that I've really enjoyed.
Child Holding Potato by Rick Barot
When my sister got her diagnosis,
I bought an airplane ticket
but to another city, where I stared
at paintings that seemed victorious
in their relation to time:
the beech from two hundred years ago,
its trunk a palette of mud
and gilt; the man with olive-black
gloves, the sky behind him
a glacier of blue light. In their calm
landscapes, the saints. Still dripping
the garden's dew, the bouquets.
Holding the rough gold orb
of a potato, the Child cradled
by the glowing Madonna. Then,
the paintings I looked at the longest:
the bowls of plums and peaches,
the lemons, the pomegranates
like red earths. In my mouth,
the raw starch. In my mouth, the dirt.
Dorothy Wordsworth by Jennifer Chang
The daffodils can go fuck themselves.
I'm tired of their crowds, yellow rantings
about the spastic sun that shines and shines
and shines. How are they any different
from me? I, too, have a big messy head
on a fragile stalk. I spin with the wind.
I flower and don't apologize. There's nothing
funny about good weather. Oh, spring again,
the critics nod. They know the old joy,
that wakeful quotidian, the dark plot
of future growing things, each one
labeled Narcissus nobilis or Jennifer Chang.
If I died falling from a helicopter, then
this would be an important poem. Then
the ex-boyfriends would swim to shore
declaiming their knowledge of my bulbous
youth. O, Flower, one said, why aren't you
meat? But I won't be another bashful shank.
The tulips have their nervous joie-de-vivre,
the lilacs their taunt. Fractious petals, stop
interrupting my poem with boring beauty.
All the boys are in the field gnawing raw
bones of ambition and calling it ardor. Who
the hell are they? This is a poem about war.
At the End of Life, a Secret by Reginald Dwayne Betts
Everything measured. A man twists
a tuft of your hair out for no reason
other than you are naked before him
and he is bored. Moments ago he was
weighting your gallbladder, and then
he was staring at the empty space where
your lungs were. Even dead, we still say
you are an organ donor, as if something
other than taxes outlast death. Your feet
are regular feet. Two of them,
and there is no mark to suggest you were
an expert mathematician, that you were
the first runner-up in debate championships,
1956, Tapioca, Illinois. From that time your body
was carted before him, to the time your
dead body is being sent to the coffin,
every pound is accounted for, except 22 grams.
The man is a praying man & has figured
what it means. He says this is the soul, finally,
after the breath has gone. The soul: less than
4,000 dollars' worth of crack--22 grams--
all that moves you through this world.
Poems aren't novels and they aren't short stories, but somehow the good ones seem to be a bit of both at once. So what do you think? Do I like weird stuff? I'm certainly open to recommendations.
Oh, and if you want to be taken seriously it helps if your poem is about death and you use the word 'quotidian.' Seriously, that word is used 32 times through 41 pages in this anthology...