Saturday, June 30, 2007

Poetry, June 2007

(reflections on the June 2007 issue of the journal POETRY)

Following an issue that apologized for being mostly commentary with little poetry, this one is all poetry. But the number of poems that tickled me is about the same as usual.

The issue begins with several pages of something by Frank Bidart that looks like a poem - consistent with a pattern of two lines, space, one line, space, repeat... interrupted from time to time with prose paragraphs. It's an exploration of an anecdote: as a young man, the poet saw a film of aging dancer Ulanova performing a role that she could no longer sustain in performance straight through. Is it a poem? An essay? An anecdote? The story of "Giselle" itself? A poem can be all of these things, and that's okay with me. At the end, there's a note about how this film, in 1952, taught the author about art. There's a lot here to appreciate and think about .

Much of what follows is crude, or crudeness gussied up. Some of it is posing -- attitude, scorn, ugly. The "f" word appears in five or so consecutive poems, and I just skipped those. Such a word is a sign of laziness. (An exception: it's the key to Harold Pinter's wonderful, creepy play BETRAYAL, carefully placed midway). There's another thing that annoys me in a lot of the poems I read in this journal, poems that fall into lists of proper nouns. Here poems listing flowers by name, or ancient poets.

A poem by John Koethe called "Chester" conjures thoughts of waking with pet at the end of the bed, and that fantasy of "the half-concealed life that lies beneath / The ordinary one, made up of ordinary mornings." A. E. Stallings' poem, "Misspent," touches on the same fear, that days are being mislaid the way bright shiny coins picked up and put in the pocket are spent on trifles one doesn't even recall.

David Yezzi's poem "The Good News" seemed to be a reflection on my own recent experience of meeting an old friend 30 years later. Like the other poems I've mentioned here, it strikes me as being like my own experience. I guess this means that these experiences are pretty universal, and discovering that is one of the pleasures in reading poetry.

A very short poem called "Scree" deftly makes a point about suffering, that it's not a stop, but a misstep from which we recover our footing, unsteadily.

No comments: