So I can admit that in reading The Best American Poetry 2006 Edited by Billy Collins that I skipped to Thomas Lux's poem first. Among other topics mentioned in his introduction, Collins says he likes to laugh. I've said before that I think humor is a trademark of some of the best fiction out there with no regard to genre. Perhaps it holds true for poetry as well.
How cool is this?
Eyes Scooped Out and Replaced by Hot Coals by Thomas Lux
The above, the punishment, the mild
but just punishment, symbolic,
the great advancement our planet
The procedure is painless,
using methods currently available
only in cartoons. Polls were taken,
it was voted upon overwhelmingly in favor.
The justness of it,
known in the bone
by each of our nation--is undeniable. Thus, it is proclaimed,
on this day anno domino, ect., I, the final arbiter
and ultimate enforcer
of such things (appointed by the king!), make official
and binding, this: that the eyes shall be gouged out
and replaced by hot coals
in the head, the blockhead,
of each countryman or woman who,
upon reaching their majority,
has yet to read
Moby Dick, by Mr. Herman Melville (1819-1891), American novelist
Lux's note on the poem: "I think of 'Eyes Scooped Out and Replaced by Hot Coals' as an audience participation poem, i.e., readers may replace the book mentioned in the poem with a beloved book of their choice."
The nature of the poem, and subsequent punishment, suggest that when filling in the blank one can't nominate a book published yesterday. I think I would have to go with The French Lieutenant's Woman, but I could just as easily say The Color Purple, or Notes From Underground, or I, Claudius. I mean really who could pick just one book?
Two questions: how would you fill in the blank and seriously how cool was that poem?
Now, read it again for full effect.