Thursday, April 10, 2014

Happy National Poetry Month!

The Powers That Be have decreed that April is National Poetry Month.  I happen to love poetry, both reading and writing it, so I'm pretty excited about this.  

Do you ever read poetry?  Poetry can be so powerful and expressive, but unfortunately so few people take the time read it.  Which is ironic since it takes the least amount of time to read a poem than to read just about anything else.  Other than perhaps a Twitter update.

SO!  I hereby issue a poetry challenge to you, lovely reader.  I challenge you to read five poems by the end of the week.  Just five.  They can be any length, written by anyone, at any time.  Pay attention to your mind before and after you read.  At its best, poetry can change the way you think for the better.  Which makes it worth it. 

I'll even supply five poems so you don't have to go looking for any.  Some brief info on the poems I selected before we begin:

  • The first one is a fun one by Jim Daniels, whom I actually heard in person at a reading during grad school.  He's a great one to hear in person, if you ever have the chance.  
  • The second poem by Jack Gilbert is actually quite personal for me, since it helped me get through a miscarriage I suffered a couple of years ago, and has remained dear in the years since.  
  • The third poem I just love for its quirk and its insight.  Something about the phrase "Mackerel essence" just gets me every time.  
  • The fourth poem is wild and loose and urgent and free and perfect.
  • And, lastly, the fifth poem is a pretty famous poem by E.E. Cummings which helped ignite my love affair with poetry. 
Okay, let's begin!  
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POEM #1:

You Bring Out the Boring White Guy in Me
by Jim Daniels


you bring out the boring white guy in me
the Ward Cleaver in me. The Pat Boone
in me. The K-Mart in me. The Slurpee
in me. The boiled hotdog in me. The mac
and cheese in me. The Tang in me.
You bring out the Hamburger Helper
in me. You bring out the Twinkie
in me. The Cheez Whiz in me.
You bring out the bowling trophy
in me. The student council in me.
The parliamentary procedure in me.
The missionary position in me.
You bring out the canned vegetables
in me. The Jell-o in me. The training
wheels in me. You bring out
the lawn edger in me. The fast-food
drive-thru window in me. The Valu
Meal in me. You bring out the white
briefs in me. You bring out
the cheap beer and weak coffee
in me. You bring out the 15%
tip chart in me. The sad overweight
weekend golfer in me. You bring out
the ex-smoker in me. The jumper
cables in the trunk with flares
and the red flag to tie to the window
in me. You bring out the Tony Orlando
in me. The canned situation comedy
laughter in me. The elevator music
in me. You bring out the medley
of TV commercial jingles in me.
The Up with People in me.
I've come to a complete stop
at the stop sign. I've got my
emergency flashers on. My doors
are locked, baby,
I'm waiting for you.


__________________________________________________________

POEM #2:

Michiko Dead
by Jack Gilbert
 


He manages like somebody carrying a box
that is too heavy, first with his arms
underneath. When their strength gives out,
he moves the hands forward, hooking them
on the corners, pulling the weight against
his chest. He moves his thumbs slightly
when the fingers begin to tire,
and it makes different muscles take over.
Afterward,
he carries it on his shoulder,
until the blood drains out of the arm
that is stretched up to steady the box
and the arm goes numb. But now
the man can hold underneath again,
so that he can go on
without ever putting the box down.


__________________________________________________________

POEM #3:

A Display of Mackerel
by Mark Doty


They lie in parallel rows,
on ice, head to tail,
each a foot of luminosity

barred with black bands,
which divide the scales’
radiant sections

like seams of lead
in a Tiffany window.
Iridescent, watery

prismatics: think abalone,
the wildly rainbowed
mirror of a soapbubble sphere,

think sun on gasoline.
Splendor, and splendor,
and not a one in any way

distinguished from the other
—nothing about them
of individuality. Instead

they’re all exact expressions
of the one soul,
each a perfect fulfilment

of heaven’s template,
mackerel essence. As if,
after a lifetime arriving

at this enameling, the jeweler’s
made uncountable examples,
each as intricate

in its oily fabulation
as the one before
Suppose we could iridesce,

like these, and lose ourselves
entirely in the universe
of shimmer—would you want

to be yourself only,
unduplicatable, doomed
to be lost? They’d prefer,

plainly, to be flashing participants,
multitudinous. Even now
they seem to be bolting

forward, heedless of stasis.
They don’t care they’re dead
and nearly frozen,

just as, presumably,
they didn’t care that they were living:
all, all for all,

the rainbowed school
and its acres of brilliant classrooms,
in which no verb is singular,

or every one is. How happy they seem,
even on ice, to be together, selfless,
which is the price of gleaming.

__________________________________________________________

POEM #4:

Team Effort

by Bob Hicok


Everyone at the same time if everyone at the same time
looked up from coffee looked up from crotch looked up
if everyone at night at dawn at lunch looked up
at the black at the blue morsel sky at the congress
of clouds of stars looked up from needle from packets
of buzzing from the wedding of dollars if everyone
in Queens in Wembley if everyone in my head if everyone
looked up from electroshock from drift if everyone
threw back the appetite of the eyes threw back the village
of the head the persistence of the skull if everyone thought
I am the vanishing point I am the frontal lobe of wind
if everyone stood and raised their wings and tuned
their orchestra if the census stood the tens of
stood the billions of stood the Earth would move
the circle would move the spinning would move if everyone
at the same time opened their mouth let the wolf
of their uvula go the rivers would stare at us
again would return to our faces the expressions
they carried away to the ocean to bury in the ocean
to save in case we ever came back.


__________________________________________________________


POEM #5:



a man who had fallen among thieves

by E.E. Cummings


a man who had fallen among thieves
lay by the roadside on his back
dressed in fifteenthrate ideas
wearing a round jeer for a hat

fate per a somewhat more than less
emancipated evening
had in return for consciousness
endowed him with a changeless grin

whereon a dozen staunch and Meal
citizens did graze at pause
then fired by hypercivic zeal
sought newer pastures or because

swaddled with a frozen brook
of pinkest vomit out of eyes
which noticed nobody he looked
as if he did not care to rise

one hand did nothing on the vest
its wideflung friend clenched weakly dirt
while the mute trouserfly confessed
a button solemnly inert.

Brushing from whom the stiffened puke
i put him all into my arms
and staggered banged with terror through
a million billion trillion stars

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