Monthly Archives: December 2009

Monday’s Verse 12/14/09

Readers,

pursuant to a viewing of H-2 Worker, a documentary about Jamaican migrant workers in Florida’s sugar cane industry, I happened to learn that Jamaica’s former prime minister, the late Michael Manley, was the son of an important Jamaican sculptor (Edna Manley), and the father of a writer named Rachel Manley. Rachel, today’s poet, was born in England in 1947. She has said that she wished she had had a more normal family upbringing, but recognizes that for her father his country came first. She was finally able to express this to him as he lay dying from cancer in the early 90’s, and that important time together became the starting point for her first memoir, In My Father’s Shade. In this poem she climbs higher up the family tree, to her grandpa, also a former leader of Jamaica. She writes about memory’s inexorable force, and in that light I think her use of repetition is skillful. Her name is an anagram for how poetry sometimes urges us to express: “Reach, man, yell!”
MEMORY
The afternoon belongs to my grandfather.
You cannot take it away
though the mind darkens
and the children’s laughter
has strayed the messages
I am near the verandah,
lost in my nets of thought
which I brought from age six,
a very long way.
You cannot sentence memory to death,
it returns through the years
lulled into hymns.
If I close my eyes
time will forget me;
I hear an old lady reading Rilke,
she finds the best line,
she explains
that poets don’t have to rhyme anymore.
If I close my eyes
my hands will forget me,
I’m up in the plum tree
near to the sky;
if I leave, I’ll never come back.
Here in this distance birds fly,
they fly, but they do not sing.
The night waits in the house
safe and peaceful as candles
or carts pulled by trusty mules;
my grandfather waits in the house.
You know the moon is just a violin
that longs to be repaired.
-1991
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Monday’s Verse 12/7/09

Folks,

Here’s an inspiring little piece for all of us who toil away in relative anonymity, sometimes concerned as to whether or not anyone ever feels the effects of what we do with the bulk of our time. This poem is notable for its sense of fun, for its good heart, its allusion and name-dropping, and its use of one of my favorite words, a word which is itself autological, which is another one of my favorite words. It also has a dedication and an epigraph, and the epigraph is from one of my favorite fiction writers. CRAY-ZAAY!

Corey Mesler was born in Niagara Falls and lives in Memphis, where he and his wife own and operate Burke’s Books. He seems like a real goofball, if you ask me, but he’s also said of his long road toward publishing and writing full-time, “In a very real sense, my words go out into humankind for me.” Pretty sweet. I suppose all of ours do, too. Have a good week! -ed.

GOD BLESS THE EXPERIMENTAL WRITERS
for David Markson

“One beginning and one ending for a book was a
thing I did not agree with.”

Flann O’Brien from At Swim-Two-Birds

God bless the experimental writers.
The ones whose work is a little
difficult, built of tinkertoys
and dada, or portmanteau and
Reich. God help them as they
type away, knowing their readers
are few, only those who love to toil
over an intricate boil of language,
who think books are secret codes.
These writers will never see their names
in Publisher’s Weekly. They will
never be on the talk shows. Yet,
every day they disappear into their
rooms atop their mother’s houses,
or their guest houses behind some
lawyer’s estate. Every day they
tack improbable word onto im-
probable word, out of love, children,
out of a desire to emend the world.

-2008