Monday, September 01, 2008

Poems of the Day - 1

I thought I’d try waking up to two new poems every day this September – at Poetry Daily and No Tell Motel. Then I thought I’d try blogging about them.

This isn’t an original idea. A while back, Julie Carter did it, as did various others, although I think they commented on three. Anyway, here’s my first day’s reflections:

Poetry Daily offers A Farm in Virginia near the North Carolina Boundary by Kelly Cherry. It’s a ‘time moves slowly and nothing changes despite huge activity’ kind of poem, spelled out (unnecessarily, I thought) in the “it’s busy here; a lot is going on/ most of the time” line. There’s plenty of description certainly, but I didn’t feel that much was going on in this poem. No surprises at the level of vocabulary, imagery or metaphor. The need to rhyme results in fair bit of waffle (that’s an argument against waffle, not against rhyme, incidentally). Perhaps this one is just not my kind of thing. 2/6.

No Tell Motel offers a week’s worth of poems by the same poet. Kim Gek Lin Short explains in her helpful poetic statement that her poems are entries in an angel’s datebook. This first one, Potlatch, is a prose poem about the angel’s sixteenth year. The title stems from a Native American winter festival, but can be used to refer to any feast or gift, linked in the poem to “the wear in my panties,” which links to the previous sentence. I’d interpret sexual activity here. She’s been granted freedom by the elders, but that freedom seems fairly nominal by the end of the poem. She’s consumed by self-disgust (the meat)? The ending, those last three lines or so, is chillingly effective. I’m not so convinced by the first half. It’s trying too hard to be weird, but the attitudes seem entirely conventional in a 21st century secular milieu. Also, “Simple at first, I…” forced me into thinking of the “I” as initially simple, even though I suspect that isn’t what’s intended. I’m underwhelmed by this one, but nevertheless intrigued to read more. 2½/6.


BarbaraS said...

I've read both and see your point. I thought the first one was trying to be a mirror poem by the end, but it didn't seem to come out right. Also 'tanager,' unfamiliar to me and repeated twice? I guess it's a kind of berry? Hmm. Not mad about it, but I see what the poet was trying to do.

Not mad about the second one either; but both interesting to read. Thanks.

Rob said...

A tanager is a bright-coloured bird.

I think the repetitions are supposed to emphasise the way nothing much happens except what always happens - if you see what I mean.

BarbaraS said...

Ah, thanks for that, re: tanager. I get that the repetitions are emphasizing the repetitive nature of, well, nature on a small farm, but I don't think it's well executed yet. Mind you, I'm a fine one to talk :)

Rob said...

I agree. It reads like a draft to me, not a finished poem.

Colin Will said...

I agree with you both on these. The danger with writing a poem where nothing much happens is that you can lose the reader's interest. It worked.

The second one is interesting, but there were too many angular juxtapositions of words and sense in it - it seems disjointed.

Rob said...

Thanks for commenting, Colin. Yes, I think the disjointedness of the second poem is a strategy, but a flawed strategy in this case.

Reb said...

Hi. Obviously (as editor of NTM) I disagree with some of your assessments, but very much appreciate your taking the time to consider and write about the poems. I'll be checking back. Thank you.


Rob said...

Thanks, Reb.

Of course, if any reader enjoys a poem I'm not so keen on, I'm happy for them to comment here and tell me why. If I like a poem and a reader thinks it's terrible, the same applies.