Saturday, February 9, 2013

My First Poetry Thoughts

So this is scary.  Because if you start talking about poetry surely there's something wrong with you, right?  I mean really, how much more elitist can you be?

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...

5 comments:

Parrish Lantern said...

I've no idea why, but I've always loved poetry at one point in my love it was that perverse dirty secret that I hid from the normal & sane but as I got older I kind of thought very large group of expletives to the normal & sane. As to describing poetry I recently wrote a description on Microfiction stating that like prose poetry, microfiction appears to be loose, possibly random paragraphs and to use everyday language, although it is heightened, making every word placed - placed with a specific purpose - as if it were a puzzle & could have only been placed there, would only fit there. This seems to be a valid description of Poetry in general, as to writing about poetry, there are tons of books that will give you the critical tools to strip a poem bare but at the end of the day all you'll have is a bunch of words & no way of putting the poem back together, the best response I had when writing about a poets collection was all I really said was look, read, find out more, as to a poet worth checking out try John Siddique.

Parrish Lantern said...

Another great writer & one in which the writer set out how he perceived poetry/poets were viewed at least in his native Poland, if not beyond.

1751 -Miroslav Holub

That year Diderot began to publish his encyclopaedia, and the first insane asylum was founded in London.
So the counting out began, to separate the sane, who veil themselves in words, from the insane, who rip off feathers from their bodies.
Poets had to learn tightrope-walking.
And to make sure, officious types began to publish instructions on how to be normal.

Chad Hull said...

Hey Parish. You've already put John Siddique and David Lloyd on my list.

I like your definition as well; the part a out the puzzle.

I've read a few books on how to read a poem and enjoy poetry but FAIL! That' s just don't work for me. I've studied western classical music all my life and I couldn't begin to explain what's good about Beethoven to someone who didn't know.

The more I read the more I develop and refine my taste.

Parrish Lantern said...

Not really stalking, just recalled you stating that you liked humorous as opposed to dark & brooding. How about one that's both. This is from an individual known more for his songs than his poetry, although he started as a writer/poet (even won awards) before becoming famous for his music.

The Cuckold's Song

If this looks like a poem
I might as well warn you at the beginning
that it's not meant to be one.
I don't want to turn anything into poetry.
I know all about her part in it
but I'm not concerned with that right now.
This is between you and me.
Personally I don't give a damn who led who on:
in fact I wonder if I give a damn at all.
But a man's got to say something.
Anyhow you fed her 5 MacKewan Ales,
took her to your room, put the right records on,
and in an hour or two it was done.
I know all about passion and honour
but unfortunately this had really nothing to do with either:
oh there was passion I'm only too sure
and even a little honour
but the important thing was to cuckold Leonard Cohen.
Hell, I might just as well address this to the both of you:
I haven't time to write anything else.
I've got to say my prayers.
I've got to wait by the window.
I repeat: the important thing was to cuckold Leonard Cohen.
I like that line because it's got my name in it.
What really makes me sick
is that everything goes on as it went before:
I'm still a sort of friend,
I'm still a sort of lover.
But not for long:
that's why I'm telling this to the two of you.
The fact is I'm turning to gold, turning to gold.
It's a long process, they say,
it happens in stages.
This is to inform you that I've already turned to clay.

This is from the collection The spice box of earth and has some wonderful poems.

Chad Hull said...

I like that one! It's funny you bring him up as he's doing a show in town very soon so I've been hearing his name a lot recently.