friday roundup: infinite corn, AWP envy, and the worst thing that ever happened to poetry

Friday already! This week has been all-mama-all-the-time for me, as the kids had a week off school. Still, I’ve been squeezing in some poet-time, too (mostly before daylight. Sigh.). Here’s this week’s roundup:

photo by Jamie Lantzy, public domain from wikimedia

infinite corn I’m reading Sandra Beasley‘s book, I Was the Jukebox, this week, and, Wow. It won the Barnard Women Poets Prize in 2009. These poems are not afraid. Joy Harjo, in the prize citation, calls them “fresh, crisp, and muscular,” and I can’t improve on that description. One thing I love about this collection is that many of the poems are both laugh-out-loud funny and cut-like-a-knife piercing– a combination I truly love because isn’t that life? I also love that these poems give voice to all sorts of worldly objects and elements: sand, the world war, a piano, an eggplant, and even a platypus.

I’m about half-way through the collection now, and I want to share this fabulous poem with you:

*

I Don’t Fear Death

But what I’m really picturing
is Omaha: field after field

of sorghum crisp to my touch
and one house high on a hill,

sheets on the line. You tell me
everything ceases, that even

our fingernails give up, but
what I really believe is that

we keep growing: infinite corn,
husk yielding to green husk.

I look back on the miles
connecting me to Earth, think

I’d never have worn those shoes.
I slip them off like anything

borrowed. The clouds are thin
and yellow, smelling of

fireworks and salt. In Omaha,
the town votes me Queen of

Everything. You are the slow
dance, the last ring of smoke:

to be held tight, and then only
this colder air between us.

*

I never would have worn those shoes, either. Reader, go get this book today!

AWP envy  I confess, I wish I were going to AWP (non-poets in the readership: this is the annual conference sponsored by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, and it is the mecca of the writing world). I fantasize about the book fair, acres and acres of books to read. I long to crouch in a corner of one of the panels, furiously scribbling notes. I want nothing more than to stop by the Crab Orchard Series table and have my copies of Threshold and Rookery signed by the amazing poets that authored them (Jennifer Richter and Traci Brimhall, respectively). Alas, this is not the year for me….. but to all my writerly friends who are going, I wish you a fantastic time. May you return home exhausted and brimming with poetry.

the worst thing that ever happened to poetry  I love this quote from an interview with poet Richard Tillinghast in the latest issue of The Pinch:

“The worst thing that ever happened to poetry was the idea that a poem was something to be understood. A saner approach to poetry would be that, instead of being understood, a poem wants and needs to be enjoyed. A lot of the things we enjoy, we don’t fully understand. Maybe we enjoy them more because we don’t fully understand them. When you meet a new person, do you understand him immediately?  People aren’t that simple and life isn’t that simple.  Reading poetry is good training for understanding life and other people.  Poems are as multilayered and as complex as people are.”

Let the people say, Amen! And here’s another thought, this time from the poet Gregory Orr:

“It is heartbreaking the way we teach poetry is an elite art form. (Poetry) is a natural expression, an impulse. Song and poetry is the only thing that lets us process our emotional life. Poetry says ‘tell me what you’re feeling.’” (from this article)

Reader, may your Friday be touched by song and poetry.

2 thoughts on “friday roundup: infinite corn, AWP envy, and the worst thing that ever happened to poetry

  1. Thanks for being a good mom, and for finding your poetry time! I am going to AWP this year, because it is back in Chicago, but I am already overwhelmed in advance. Thanks for this last stuff. It comforts me. And makes me feel OK about saying, at every poetry reading, “Don’t worry if this doesn’t make sense! Just let it wash over you, and have fun!”

    • Thanks, Kathleen. No one has thanked me for being a good mom lately 🙂 (imagine that!). Everyone tells me they come back from AWP exhausted — I’ve yet to experience it firsthand. Have a great time. And, I love that you say that at every poetry reading. Poems experienced, not dissected!

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