Poetry Class!

Well, our Nine Lives (of the Poets) is over for now, and so many of you have emailed me that I thought a brief coda was in order. This series got three times the emails most Stevereads posts do – just as the Nine Lives (of the Composers) did last summer, so it’s safe to say you can count on seeing more. And several of you have written to, ahem, politely suggest directions that ‘more’ might take! For what it’s worth, I am aware that what was originally intended to be a feature spanning the ages got stuck in the long sixteenth century and just sort of wallowed there … a slight failing to which I claim only the custom of the country: if we can’t indulge ourselves on our own book-blogs, what has Western Civilization achieved, finally? Nevetheless, the lack shall be rectified! Contrary to the impression given this time around, my awareness of poetry extends all the way to the 21st century – and includes both genders – and with any luck, more of that will be expressed next time.

For now, thank you for all the emails, and what better grace-note on which to end our poetry-fest than another instalment of Poetry Class, featuring a work so new the ink is hardly dry on the page! I liked it, so of course I’m hoping you do too:

Very similar, very simile -

a smile, a gesture,  a mark on the air

to wave hello, goodbye, to throw a kiss

across the rainbow distances. “The word love,”

writes syphilitic Paul Gauguin, in his journal in Tahiti,

“I’d like to kick whoever invented it in the teeth.”

Gauguin the realist in paradise, painting

cinnamon women in native floral outlines

in real two-dimension, beautiful flat faces.

Then the counterargument: Plato’s homely metaphor

of how, in our first life, we were whole,

male and female, but cut in half

by gods no less fearful than Gauguin,

the way we cut eggs in half with a hair,

the eggs hard-boiled, the hair the thread of a tailor.

When is a thing not like another thing,

like the split sweet heart of an apple?

We’re so filled with absence,

or as Yeats, after Porphyry, puts it,

the “honey of generation,” no wonder we stand

in the street at night, half or wholly drunk, shouting.

That’s called “Verisimilitude” and it’s by Stanley Plumly, and I found it in the new Atlantic.

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