Monday, June 4, 2007

The Trouble with Poets (Peter Mulvey)

I've always been enamored with words - my uncle (a published poet and author) was an English professor at the University of Louisville... and my father wrote for the Athens Banner-Herald, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Atlanta magazine (on staff with Anne Rivers Siddons). My punishments as a child were rarely corporal - instead, I'd be asked to write an essay on whatever it was I did wrong, and then my father would correct it *with* me, discussing alternate word choices and thematic structure. It was a wonderful bonding time and taught me as much about grammar/syntax/language as it did about values and ethics - I went on to graduate college with an English major/journalism minor.

I think my softest spot is reserved for poetry - I am more than a bit in awe of those who can convey volumes in a condensed form, not to mention the occasional rhyme scheme (sigh)...

SONG: The Trouble with Poets by Peter Mulvey

BOOK: Good Poems edited by Garrison Keillor

POEM: Everything on the Menu by Ellen Bass

In a poem it doesn’t matter
if the house is dirty. Dust
that claims the photographs like a smothering
love. Sand spilled from a boy’s sneaker,
the faceted grains scattered on the emerald rug
like the stars and planets of a tiny
solar system. Monopoly
butted up against Dostoyevsky.
El techo, a shiny sticker, labeling the ceiling
from the summer a nephew studied Spanish.
Mold on the bread in the refrigerator
is as interesting as lichen on an oak –
its miniscule hairs like the fuzz
on an infant’s head, its delicate
blues and spring greens, its plethora of spores,
whole continents of creatures, dazzling in our palms.

In a poem, life and death are equals.
We receive the child, crushed
like gravel under the tire.
And the grandfather at the open grave
holding her small blue sweatshirt to his face.
And we welcome the baby born
at daybreak, the mother naked, squatting
and pushing in front of the picture window
just as the garbage truck roars up
and the men jump out, clanking
the metal cans into its maw.

In a poem, we don’t care if you got hired
or fired, lost or found love,
recovered or kept drinking.
You don’t have to exercise
or forgive. We’re hungry.
We’ll take everything on the menu.

In poems joy and sorrow are mates.
They lie down together, their hands
all over each other, fingers
swollen in mouths,
nipples chafed to flame, their sexes
fitting seamlessly as day and night.
They arch over us, glistening and bucking,
the portals through which we enter our lives.

QUOTE: "Poetry is ordinary language raised to the nth power. Poetry is boned with ideas, nerved and blooded with emotions, all held together by the delicate, tough skin of words." ~ Paul Engle

1 comment:

  1. Love that poem, Susan! I, too, am in awe of poets as I am not the recipient of that particular gift. :)