Friday, December 7, 2012

New Poet Laureate...

Browsing The Poetry Foundation today, I discovered that we have a new poet laureate. And, she is LA's first poet laureate. Congratulations, LA! Congratulations, Eloise Klein Healy! So, for your reading fancy, I provide below a couple examples of her poetry. 

Asking About You

Instead of having sex all the time I like to hold you and not get into some involved discussion of what life means. I want you to tell me something I don't know about you. Something about the day before that photograph in which you're standing on your head. I want to know about softball and the team picture. Why are you so little next to the others? Were you younger? Were you small as a girl? What I want most is to have been a girl with you and played on the opposite team so I could have liked you and competed against you at the same time. 

[I guess part of being poet laureate means expressing l'esprit du temps. And, the angst Healy describes in the above poem seems to express well the difficulty of relationships that our hyper-sexualized culture has created for many of us. As sex ceases to be an expression of intimacy, it is less desirable to those who long for intimacy. Our brash confessionalism, whether it be in our brazen attitude towards sexuality or our desire to flaunt our lives and opinions on social networks, seems to have crushed much of our capacity for tenderness and intimacy. I only hope, for Ms. Healy's sake, that this poem is not actually about her life.
Content aside, the poem does little to inspire. To begin with, prose poetry is a dangerous road to go down. It is too easy to slip into writing a journal entry and calling it a poem. This poem lacks the lyricism and sensory power [i.e. the ability to convey convincingly sensory impressions] that are necessary to call a poem a poem. Furthermore, it is so lost in the narrator's experience that it forgets about the human experience, which should be at the bottom of every poem. For, why should your reader be obliged to read your work, unless it can move them or teach them? The author, not the reader, has an obligation to make his work worthwhile. I fear that this poem lays too much of the onus of appreciation upon the reader....]

Living Here Now

My father's dying
resembles nothing so much
as a small village
building itself
in the mind of a traveler
who reads about it
and thinks to go there.

The journey is imagined
in a way not even felt
as when years ago
I knew my father would die someday.

The idea came up as fast
as a curve in the road
which opens out
to an unexpected vista,

and now in this journey
the road gravel crunches
under my tires. I miss
some of the streets,
get lost, get lost. 

I find I'm no tourist anymore
and settle into the oldest human assignment.
Bury your father and live forever
as a stranger in that town. 

[This poem is, altogether, more interesting than the first. It conveys the sadness and complacency of loss. What can one do in the face of death? It leaves us feeling lost and quietly submissive, much like the rhythm of the poem. And, the image of the road and of travel is compelling, especially in regards to the theme of mortality. The final couplet "Bury your father and live forever / as a stranger in that town" lend a universality to the poem. What have we been doing but burying our fathers and continuing for all these millennia?
And yet, the metaphor of the road has become not a little hackneyed over the years. The images, while descriptive, are a bit trite (we're all travelers... ah yes, I forgot.). And again, I feel the weight of appreciation dumped at my feet. Ms. Healy gives one no reason to want her poetry, except the sense of artistic guilt one feels when one does not appreciate something appreciated by the "wise."]

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