Thursday, April 26, 2012

Poem in Your Pocket Day!

Good afternoon, poetry lovers!...Poetry likers?...Poetry tolerators?...What do you mean, you would rather have your brains eaten by Edgar Allan Poe's zombie than read one of his poems?  Have you READ one of his poems out loud? They'll scare the pants off of you, and don't tell me that you don't like to have your pants off because everyone does!

But anyways, whether you like, love, or loathe poetry, today is Poem in Your Pocket Day! Yes, this is a real day dedicated to a single poem - any poem! Behold -

Seeeeeee! There's an article about it! And when you read about it on-line you know that it's real.

I have NPR to thank for getting me into poetry, actually. I began listening to The Writer's Almanac about ten years ago, where Garrison Kelloir reads you a (usually contemporary) poem and gives you the historical literary facts for the day. Before I started listening to this guy, I honestly thought I hated poetry.

I just didn't get it. None of the romantic or nature stuff moved me, which was confusing because I like love and nature, so why wouldn't I like poetry about it? None of it got to me until I read "The Death of The Ball Turret Gunner" in the 11th grade (WARNING! This poem has nothing to do with romance or nature):

From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

I'd never read a poem like that. It was jarring, visual, gory, and real. And since I was very into heavy metal and gore, I thought this ROCKED. But I didn't read anything that affected me like that again until I started listening to Garrison Keillor. 

I didn't know that poetry could be funny like this:
"I've Always Enjoyed Her Sense of Humor"
by Gerald Locklin

"She's an old friend

And I don't see her very often,
But she has a way of turning up
When I'm talking to a girl I've just met,

And she will invariably storm up to us
And confront me with, "where is the child support check?!"
Then turn on her heel and storm from the room,
Leaving me to make inadequate explanations."

Or that a poem about an animal could be powerful, like this:
"The Dragonfly"
by Louise Bogan

"You are made of almost nothing
But of enough
To be great eyes
And diaphanous double vans;
To be ceaseless movement,
Unending hunger,
Grappling love.
Link between water and air,
Earth repels you.
Light touches you only to shift into iridescence
Upon your body and wings.

Twice-born, predator,
You split into the heat.
Swift beyond calculation or capture
You dart into the shadow
Which consumes you.

You rocket into the day.
But at last, when the wind flattens the grasses,
For you, the design and purpose stop.

And you fall
With the other husks of summer."

This is where Genevieve takes a moment to recover from the frustration of not being able to write lines like, "You split into the heat. Swift beyond calculation or capture."  Genevieve can't even describe why she likes that line! Or why it moves her!...or why she's writing about herself in the third person!

If I could write any kind of poem though, it would be the kind that tells a story, or rather, a snap shot of a moment in a person's life.  Like this:
"Where Dreams Come From"

by Marge Piercy

"A girl slams the door of her little room
under the eaves where marauding squirrels
scamper overhead like herds of ideas.
She has forgotten to be grateful she has
finally a room with a door that shuts.

She is furious her parents don't comprehend
why she wants to go to college, that place
of musical comedy fantasies and weekend
football her father watches, beer can
in hand. It is as if she announced I want
to journey to Iceland or Machu Picchu.
Nobody in their family goes to college.
Where do dreams come from? Do they
sneak in through torn screens at night
to light on the arm like mosquitoes?

Are they passed from mouth to ear
like gossip or dirty jokes? Do they
sprout from underground on damp
mornings like toadstools that form
fairy rings on dewtipped grasses?

No, they slink out of books, they lurk
in the stacks of libraries. Out of pages
turned they rise like the scent of peonies
and infect the brain with their promise.
I want, I will, says the girl and already

she is halfway out the door and down
the street from this neighborhood, this
mortgaged house, this family tight
and constricting as the collar on the next
door dog who howls on his chain all night."

And so, my dear people, I have done my part for Poem in Your Pocket Day. I have provided you with a few portable poems that you can stuff into your pocket and read later at the dinner table where your family will sling chicken legs at you and demand that you shut up.  When they do, threaten them with a love poem. I haven't provided you with one?  Well, shit.

"The Weight"

by Linda Gregg

"Two horses were put together in the same paddock.
Night and day. In the night and in the day
wet from heat and the chill of the wind
on it. Muzzle to water, snorting, head swinging
and the taste of bay in the shadowed air.
The dignity of being. They slept that way,
knowing each other always.
Withers quivering for a moment,
fetlock and the proud rise at the base of the tail,
width of back. The volume of them, and each other's weight.
Fences were nothing compared to that.
People were nothing. They slept standing,
their throats curved against the other's rump.
they breathed against each other,
whinnied and stomped.
There are things they did that I do not know.
The privacy of them had a river in it.
Had our universe in it. And the way
its border looks back at us with its light.
This was finally their freedom.
The freedom an oak tree knows.
That is built at night by stars."

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