Thursday, September 04, 2008

Poems of the Day - 4

The thing about Poetry Daily is that you never know what’s coming next. Every day is a surprise. But I didn’t expect this!

Today’s poem is Afternoon Nap by James W. Wood. I know James. His chapbook, The Theory of Everything, is on HappenStance Press, as is mine. I’ve read with James before and I’ll be reading with him next month. In November, he’s reading at Poetry at the Great Grog, which I organise. So, potentially awkward! If I say I love the poem, people will suspect bias. If I say I hate it, well…

Anyway, I read it and was relieved to find I didn’t hate it. He’s a good writer so that didn’t surprise me. It’s not one of my favourites of his, but I also know he’s not the kind of person to object to critical remarks. The poem concerns a man sleeping and, metaphorically, a man who has slept through life. He used to run miles round a track in school, but now he dozes off over a “picture of a scoring hero.” The irony of this is cemented by the desperate sadness of:

What would he now say he had missed? Nothing.

This is less self-satisfaction than complete apathy, as we see by the final stanza. I felt a little tightening wouldn’t have gone amiss at times – e.g. “What was it that he had wanted…” is surely better as “What had he wanted…” and "He felt weak" seems unnecessary... It’s a very sad portrait, which is fair enough, but I’m not sure what to take from it. Don’t end up like this guy? Keep your eyes open? The awful thing is that the eyes continue to stare into the garden even when they’re closed off to everything - a sinister touch. 3/6

Kim Gek Lin Short’s poem, Clone at No Tell Motel immediately piqued my interest with:

Later I win a diminutive version of myself in a contest I did not mean to enter.

I also liked the black-paint-eating maquette. The imagery and narrative is lively enough, but… I don’t know… today’s offering lacks a bit of spark. Poems in this vein work because of gratuitous surprise, humour, and often a heavy edge of irony or satire. This poem contains all three and it’s enjoyable enough without - as we say here - setting the heather alight. 2½/6

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

If I rank above Billy Collins in your estimation - well, the drinks are on me. Thank you for the close reading of the poem Rob - James

Andrew Shields said...

As I just mentioned in a brief note on my blog, I read "Afternoon Nap" right after waking up from an afternoon nap! In one respect, it is definitely excellent: it perfectly captures the sluggish head that often goes with waking up after an unexpected afternoon nap!

Nic Sebastian said...

Interrupting to say thanks for your comment just now on my blog. Means a lot to me to hear from you on this. (Love the daily poem critiques too!) Best, Nic