Monthly Archives: January 2009

Jan 20, 2009 Ars Poetica #100: I Believe

Friends,

forgive my lateness and the paucity of verbiage today. I heard
Elizabeth Alexander’s inaugural poem on TV just now. I’d label it not
a great poem. Tried to find it on the net, didn’t, found this instead.
Wass dinkest du?

Congrats Mr. President and Go Steelers,

mjl







Ars Poetica #100: I Believe



Poetry, I tell my students,
is idiosyncratic. Poetry
is where we are ourselves,
(though Sterling Brown said
“Every ‘I’ is a dramatic ‘I'”)
digging in the clam flats
for the shell that snaps,
emptying the proverbial pocketbook.
Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,
overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way
to get from here to there.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)
is not all love, love, love
and I’m sorry the dog died.
Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,
and are we not of interest to each other?

-2005

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Monday’s Verse, January 20/09

Friends,

forgive my lateness and the paucity of verbiage today. I heard
Elizabeth Alexander’s inaugural poem on TV just now. I’d label it not
a great poem. Tried to find it on the net, didn’t, found this instead.
Wass dinkest du?

Congrats Mr. President and Go Steelers,

mjl

Ars Poetica #100: I Believe

Poetry, I tell my students,
is idiosyncratic. Poetry
is where we are ourselves,
(though Sterling Brown said
“Every ‘I’ is a dramatic ‘I'”)
digging in the clam flats
for the shell that snaps,
emptying the proverbial pocketbook.
Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,
overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way
to get from here to there.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)
is not all love, love, love
and I’m sorry the dog died.
Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,
and are we not of interest to each other?

-2005

Monday’s Verse, January 12/09

When I think of Pittsburgh, I think of 2 things: The Steelers, and Gerald Stern. The Steelers won a big playoff gaem against Sandy Eggo last night. Gerald Stern published a new book of poems in 2008, his 83rd year. This poem is not from that collection. It’s worth paying attention to anyway. Perhaps Stern’s poems are like Emily Dickinson‘s, insofar as they are intimately personal, always universal, constantly surprising. He even caught me off guard with the POV of this one. Happy new year,
Matthew
THE DOG
What I was doing with my white teeth exposed
like that on the side of the road I don’t know,
and I don’t know why I lay beside the sewer
so that the lover of dead things could come back
with is pencil sharpened and his piece of white paper.
I was there for a good two hours whistling
dirges, shrieking a little, terrifying
hearts with my whimpering cries before I died
by pulling the one leg up and stiffening.
There is a look we have with the hair of the chin
curled in mid-air, there is a look with the belly
stopped in the midst of its greed. The lover of dead things
stoops to feel me, his hand is shaking. I know
his mouth is open and his glasses are slipping.
I think his pencil must be jerking and the terror
of smell—and sight—is overtaking him;
I know he has that terrified faraway look
that death brings—he is contemplating. I want him
to touch my forehead once again and rub my muzzle
before he lifts me up and throws me into
that little valley. I hope he doesn’t use
his shoe for fear of touching me; I know,
or used to know, the grasses down there; I think
I knew a hundred smells. I hope the dog’s way
doesn’t overtake him, one quick push,
barely that, and the mind freed, something else,
some other, thing to take its place. Great heart,
great human heart, keep loving me as you lift me,
give me your tears, great loving stranger, remember,
the death of dogs, forgive the yapping, forgive
the shitting, let there be pity, give me your pity.
How could there be enough? I have given
my life for this, emotion has ruined me, oh lover,
I have exchanged my wildness—little tricks
with the mouth and feet, with the tail, my tongue is a parrots’s,
I am a rampant horse, I am a lion,
I wait for the cookie, I snap my teeth—
as you have taught me, oh distant and brilliant and lonely.