Monthly Archives: June 2017

Monday’s Verse 6/26/2017

Readers,

I caught 1/2 of an interview with Sherman Alexie on Fresh Air last week. It was pretty awesome. As he says, Mr. Alexie has been the "Indian du jour," for a pretty long time now, and you’ve probably heard of him. He’s written novels, poems, essays, memoirs, and was briefly famous in the mid-1990s for "Smoke Signals," a short story from which he co-wrote a screenplay, which became an art-house favorite movie. He was born on the Spokane Indian reservation in 1966, and for more on his life I’d take a listen to that Terry Gross interview, or read the transcript.

The one thing that had me glued to my seat during the interview was this short poem he read; it’s one of the chapters of his new memoir. I know some of you out there really cleave to rhymed and measured poetry, and I think this one will satisfy you. I had to take a guess at the line breaks, since all I have is the radio transcript to go by. I thought this one was really powerful, in a Dylan Thomas or Elizabeth Bishop sestina sort of way. -ed.

AFTER BRAIN SURGERY

I forget what I was trying to say.
One word or another gets in the way
of the word I was trying to use. Nothing stays.
I forget what I was trying to say,
so I say something else. I compensate.
Like a broken horse, I’ve learned a new gait.

But wait.

Are these the words I meant to say?
I think these rhymes help me to map the way.
I think these rhymes help me to map the way.
But wait –Are these the words I meant to say?
Am I a broken horse? Is this my new gait?

Damn. I’ve lost the path, so I’ll compensate
by repeating the words I meant to say.
But these words migrate. They refuse to stay
in place. This is my new life, my new way.
I forget what I was trying to say.

-2017

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Monday’s Verse 6/19/2017

Oh man oh man oh man. The new U.S. poet laureate is younger than me. Trying hard not to freak out here. Deep breath – SMILE – Readers, the Library of Congress just named Tracy K. Smith ("Try this, mack") the new poet laureate. She shares with MV favorite Paul Muldoon a faculty position at Princeton, and she reportedly takes personal themes, love, family, a search for big pictures (her dad was an astronaut), a search for god, as guides for her poetry. I hope we’ll all be able to see/hear her in public forums in the coming year. -ed.

I DON’T MISS IT

But sometimes I forget where I am,

Imagine myself inside that life again.

Recalcitrant mornings. Sun perhaps,

Or more likely colorless light

Filtering its way through shapeless cloud.

And when I begin to believe I haven’t left,

The rest comes back. Our couch. My smoke

Climbing the walls while the hours fall.

Straining against the noise of traffic, music,

Anything alive, to catch your key in the door.

And that scamper of feeling in my chest,

As if the day, the night, wherever it is

I am by then, has been only a whir

Of something other than waiting.

We hear so much about what love feels like.

Right now, today, with the rain outside,

And leaves that want as much as I do to believe

In May, in seasons that come when called,

It’s impossible not to want

To walk into the next room and let you

Run your hands down the sides of my legs,

Knowing perfectly well what they know.

-2007

Monday’s Verse 6/12/2017

Dear readers,

now it’d be fair to say I was reminded of this poem, which we’ve read before, because I was in Ireland, or because I memorized it, or because I saw actual lake isles, or because I posed with a statue of Willie himself, or because I saw a cabin of clay and wattles made, last week. But more immediately, I was reminded of it during an NPR story this morning about the first responders to last year’s Pulse nightclub shooting, many of whom suffer from PTSD. One man who has not worked since because of the severity of his disability talked about the effect it’s had on his kids, and how he needs to go to the beach and sit out on the water, on a surfboard, in order to get any peace. "Nothing to listen to but the waves lapping, the sound of the wind on the water, thinking about where all the fish are going to…" That took me right back to the final stanza of "The Lake Isle of Innisfree." One thing I didn’t put together about this poem for a long time was where it’s written from and where it takes place–in its own way, it’s a completely urban poem. Yeats even wrote in a letter that its inspiration was a window display for a travel agency in London, that had a little running water fountain… its sound took him back to stories from childhood, including his dad’s readings from thorough to the children.

If ever there was a poem for reading out loud, it’s this one. It’s Monday, do yourself a favor and hear it in your deep heart’s core. -ed.

THE LAKE ISLE OF INNISFREE

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a-glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

-1893

Monday’s Verse 6/5/2017

Special MV greetings from Portlaoise, Ireland! Short intro today, but, fortunately, for another man who needs no introduction, William Butler Yeats (“Will be utterly as I am”). Here’s a 1915 poem inspired at least partly by his great, unrequited love, the nationalist Maud Gonne. -ed.

HER PRAISE

She is foremost of those that I would hear praised.
I have gone about the house, gone up and down
As a man does who has published a new book,
Or a young girl dressed out in her new gown,
And though I have turned the talk by hook or crook
Until her praise should be the uppermost theme,
A woman spoke of some new tale she had read,
A man confusedly in a half dream
As though some other name ran in his head.
She is foremost of those that I would hear praised.
I will talk no more of books or the long war
But walk by the dry thorn until I have found
Some beggar sheltering from the wind, and there
Manage the talk until her name come round.
If there be rags enough he will know her name
And be well pleased remembering it, for in the old days,
Though she had young men’s praise and old men’s blame,
Among the poor both old and young gave her praise.