Note: This post originally ran on my blog from many years ago, wheeleringermany.blogspot.com. I posted to and updated it during some of my tenure as an au pair in Dresden, Germany. This particular post was in the drafts folder, but appeared completed.
Poetry’s one of those special things. It’s like how I must, now that I’m in Germany, contract everything I write in ways more seen in speech than writing. Like the very first word of this post! Poetry: it’s special.
For me, some poems have an arresting power. I do not know why they do. But their power is much unlike the power of normal prose (as opposed to prose poetry.) The two work on different levels.
Sometimes, but rarely, the two overlap. Cormac McCarthy has many a line that crosses.
I’ve taken to cutting poems out of magazines (so far, only the New Yorker, but I haven’t yet worked my way through the Harper’s I have) that I find something in. Something really arresting, beatiful, profound, grotesque, something. Poems that I like to read over and over again. I’m begining to garner more of a collection than I had before. So, here I’ll name the names, list the titles and give a little excerpt. A little later I’ll post a picture or two of their configuration in my room. Because I have that much not to do.
One of the few very-recent additions, by Stephen Dunn: “If a Clown”
If a clown came out of the woods,
a standard-looking clown with oversized
polka-dot clothes, floppy shoes,
a red, bulbous nose, and you saw him
on the edge of your property,
there’d be nothing funny about that,
would there? A bear might be preferable,
especially if black and berry-driven.
And if this clown began waving his hands
with those big white gloves
that clowns wear, and you realized
he wanted your attention, had something
apparently urgent to tell you,
would you pivot and run from him,
or stay put, as my friend did, who seemed
to understand here was a clown
who didn’t know where he was,
a clown without a context?
It goes on — I cut it under half way through. I suggest looking it up. Much worth the read. Neither is it my favorite, nor do I think it’s the best on the wall. The first lines though — I love it. Whole thing at: http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/poetry/2009/08/24/090824po_poem_dunn
“When The Snake Became a Man” by Garret Keizer hits me. I’m not sure where. And I think it has some deep level of meaning, profound or otherwise. I do not know where that meaning lies and what form it takes. I haven’t taken the time to analyze the poem. Each time I read it, aloud or silently, but I haven’t taken it down for a nuts-to-bolts soup fun-time.
It’s either like Lake Tahoe: beautiful, profound, deep. Or, it’s like a beautiful blond with the same Lake Tahoe attributes. And then one talks to her. And one’s spirit is crushed underneath her heel. There’s nothing more there than a catalog of pop songs and what her boyfriend’s views on politics.
Here’s the first fourth:
When the snake became a man,
he couldn’t stop swallowing
one rat after another until
he became so large he couldn’t
constrict his prey. He hired
a number of smaller snakes
not men or barely so to strangle
the rats for him and a surgeon
to make an opening in his tail
over which he wore a velvet hat
when not extruding his meals.
I suggest looking it up. Very much worth the read. Whole thing at: http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/poetry/2009/03/30/090330po_poem_keizer
My favorite and first poem put to the wall is “The Animals” by Geoffrey Lehmann. (The correlation between first and favorite/best seems to always be strong. However, in this case, it does not hold true.) I’d prefer you looked the poem, in its entirety, up by yourself. I will quote my favorite line:
“A tractor winched the body out.”
The whole thing can be found at: http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/poetry/2009/06/01/090601po_poem_lehmann
Finally, a poem that I like. It does not have the same pathos as some other the other above two, but none the less, I enjoy it. It’s called “Last Robot Song” by Robert Pinsky. Here’s the first stanza:
It was a little newborn god
That made the first instrument:
Sweet vibration of
Mind, mind, mind
Enclosed in its orbit.