Sunday, April 1, 2012

Assholes & poetry

First things first - I think this guy is funny.  His delightful series on the Evolution of the Asshole (Parts II, III, IV)  is amusing in and of itself, and the fact that the writer himself, Spry, often comes off as a condescending asshole of the literary type makes it especially hysterical to me.  Spry also posted a pretty decent poem today in honor of National Poetry Month, NPM.  

Speaking of NPM, each April I get all excited & shit because I have a long history of  poetry love and because of this, I want to impose poetry upon other people. I want everyone else to love it, too. In the past, I have blithely announced my plan to post a poem a day for the entire month and promptly failed after two days, tops.  I'm just warning you now so you're not surprised.

Guess what?  For NPM, I'm going to post one of my favorite poems for each day of the month.

Years ago, when the kids were very small, I remember going to the library back home (Akron, Ohio) and scanning the shelves for poetry.  Our local Kenmore branch offered a fairly small selection of traditional poets; Browning, Whitman, Blake, Dickinson, and the like.   These slaked my thirst for awhile, and I still love them dearly.  In my study, I have an entire shelf dedicated poetry, and these poets are definitely well represented. But I grew weary of reading the same poets over and over again. I wanted more. This was in the early 90's and I didn't have a home computer, so I couldn't yet explore poetry online.  I decided to venture out to the main branch library downtown and I was not disappointed. The poetry section was large and dusty and I had it all to myself.   I would get the kids settled in the kids' department or signed up for the summer reading program and head off to the poetry section, spreading the books all over the tables.  We always brought a gigantic canvas bag with us to carry our loot home.  I still have that bag and every time I see it, I recall my beautiful, chubby, blonde toddlers, all grown now, who used to get so excited about going to the library.  This led to my love of children's picture books and subsequent heartbreak,which is probably fodder for another blog post, so I'll leave it at that. 

For years, I read through that poetry section, and it made me hungry for more.  I  felt almost secretive about my love of poetry, because no one that I knew was the least bit interested in it.  I can say this with some authority because yes, I tried to share it with those around me, I most certainly did.  I bought people poetry books that I wanted for birthday gifts, almost moved to tears when the moment came to actually give them the gift.  I once gave my step-mother a copy of Song of the World Becoming by Pattiann Rogers.  It was the most expensive book I had ever purchased in my life.  I had checked it out of the library so many times that I sort of felt that the public library system should just give me the book out of pity or charity. No one else was reading it, that much was certain.  How could anyone else read it, when it resided on my bedside table?  I bought her the book because I desperately wanted to make a peace offering. It wasn't really a book I was giving her, but a piece of myself because when I read poetry, I feel something inside me open   just a little.   To be honest, I think I may have been also trying to appease the guilt I felt for not liking her.  It didn't work, because I still don't like her and I'm pretty sure that book, if she didn't immediately toss it into the junk heap, is collecting dust in some hidden closet, or maybe propping up a rickety table.  The point is, I'm pretty sure she isn't reading it, and that just killed me for the longest time.  I wanted that book.  I should have just kept it for myself, I've thought more than once.

I own that book now, and many others.  My desire to share the beauty of poetry hasn't diminished at all over the years.  Poetry has the ability to evoke powerful images and feelings in a way that other genres cannot.  I hope you like the poems I share this month.  If you find even one that speaks to you, my job here is done. I had a very difficult time choosing a favorite.  

The Question of Affection
By Pattiann Rogers

We don't know yet what it means to be touched,
To be the recipient of caresses, what the ear
Learns of itself when its lines are followed
By the finger of somebody else.

We know the spine of the infant can expand,
The neck grow sturdy, the shoulder blades facile
By fondling alone. The acuity of the eye is increased,
The lung capacity doubled by random nuzzles
To the ribs.

But we don't understand what the mind perceives
When the thigh's length is fixed by the dawdling
Of the lover's hand, when the girth of the waist
Is defined by the arms of a child.

An affectionate ear on the belly must alter
The conception of the earth pressing itself against the sky.
An elbow bent across the chest must anticipate
Early light angled over the lake. The curl of the pea
Can be understood as one hand caught carefully inside another.

Cores and cylinders, warm boundaries and disappearing curves,
What is it we realize when those interruptions of space
Are identified with love in the touch of somebody else?

I must remember now what it was I recognized
In the sky outside the window last night
As I felt the line of my shoulder drawn
In the trace of your lips.

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