Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

To further my education and to expand my literary horizons, I have made it a point to add a good dose of poetry into my reading schedule every year. I don’t pretend to be an expert in poetry; I know nothing of rhyme and meter. I do know what sounds gorgeous to my ear, and what offends it. I tend to like a poet’s work because it moves me, period. I especially love reading local poets from right here in Oklahoma. Benjamin Myers holds a special place in my heart and on my bookshelf not only because he’s the uber-talented son of my friend and fellow writer, Anna Myers, but because his poetry is just plain beautiful.

lapse americanaHis latest book of poetry, Lapse Americana, feels like a slice of home, and it’s just as rich with the flavors of his native Oklahoma as his first book, Elegy for Trains. Whether he’s exploring the emotional depth of the gravediggers in “A Production of Hamlet” or the meaning and significance of nothing in “None of This” or the meaning of everything in “The Tardy Ones”, his writing is effortless and evocative.

Brief description of Lapse Americana:

The twin ravens, Thought and Memory, of Norse myth are reborn as American crows to fly an interweaving pattern or remembering and forgetting through the pages of Lapse Americana. Born out of the poet’s childhood during the Pax Americana and situated within the war and economic lapse of the new century, these poems explore memory and amnesia, faith and doubt, presence and absence. They are rooted in rural, working class experience as well as in the poetic traditions of America, Europe, and China. By turns formal and jazzy, confessional and coy, these poems speak of the universal by focusing on the particular, insisting with simultaneous emphasis upon the value of remembering and of embracing forgetfulness. (Book description from publisher’s website.)

Here’s one from Lapse Americana that aptly describes some of our tumultuous spring weather, one to which many who live here can readily relate :

Tornado

Toward evening the clouds began

circling each other like dogs.

A light like the golden skin

of the sun itself fell

steady as rain before rain

and puddled between round bales

uncollected in the pasture.

.

Then the utility poles

were a row of broken teeth

up the highway to town,

.

and once again

the ordinary light.

The way he describes the light before a storm is just fantastic. Here’s another one of my favorite poems:

 

Talking to My Racist Friend

I read somewhere that all the sunlight

smacking the earth

at any moment

weighs as much

as a cruise ship,

.

which makes me

wonder

how much the darkness

in this conversation

with you

must weigh:

.

Eight semis stacked in a pyramid

and balanced on a teacup?

The Empire State Building

sopping wet?

All the dirt in Oklahoma?

.

Or maybe a cruise ship

of its own,

with doe-eyed passengers

waving

dumbly from the deck

as they sail obliviously off

to kiss the sullen iceberg.

Amazing, right? I know you’ll want to read more. To order this book, visit the New York Quarterly Books website here. To learn more about Benjamin Myers, visit his page on NYQ here. You can also visit his blog here.

I lost one of my mother figures recently and it has been a slow process of mourning to regain my footing. I say one of my mother figures because my own mother isn’t in the picture; I need as many positive mother figures in my life to fill that vast and empty void as I can get. One is now missing and it has thrown my planets out of alignment. Everything is still rotating and revolving in my universe, just more wobbly than normal, trying to compensate for the hole, the empty space.

I promise to get back to regular posting soon, but for now I leave you with a poem that breaks my heart every time I read it.

There Are Four Wounds, Miguel

by E.A. Mares

The sand hill cranes rise, wheel

and turn above the Rio Grande. Their wings

flash in the sun and their wavering V

floats north and then is gone.

There is a fourth wound, Miguel,

the silence these birds leave in their wake.

The tree house in my father’s cottonwood

warps into something like a photograph

left too long in the sun.

all children having grown and gone.

There is a fourth wound, Miguel,

the silence of the tree house planks.

Once I saw a guitar burnt and blackened by fire.

The strings were gone, the bridge destroyed,

the neck and body only dark shadows.

There is a fourth wound, Miguel,

a silence where once there was music.

One by one the days slip into history,

and where there was a voice

there are only documents, evidence

that my daughter once walked this land.

Now she leaves footprints only in memory.

There are fours wounds, Miguel,

the wound of life,

the wound of love,

the wound of death,

the wound of silence.

I was inspired by a couple of thought-provoking books of poetry I read this past week by fellow Oklahoma writer Nathan Brown and wanted to share them with you. I met Nathan Brown a few years ago while taking a summer extension course through the University of Oklahoma that was set in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was a week long immersion course in the culture and writing of the Southwest. It was taught by Robert Con Davis-Undiano; Nathan was there helping teach the course. For the class, I was introduced to writers completely new to me like Rudolpho Anaya who wrote Bless Me Ultima and Elena Avila who wrote Woman Who Glows in the Dark and to E.A. (Tony) Mares who wrote the most amazing book of poetry With the Eyes of a Raptor after the death of his daughter that I found so moving I couldn’t stop gushing about it even when he was right there in front of our class. That’s right; our group was the only one that had to do their presentation in front of the actual author.

No pressure there.

Tony, as we were told to call him, was very generous with his critique of our presentation. We also had the pleasure of his company at dinner later that evening where we heard him read his own work. He did a much better job than we did. Not every day was spent in the classroom, we also went to museums, ate fantastic local food, and watched a great flamenco performance. I loved every minute of it.

I stumbled across Nathan’s website this past year and remembered that he wrote poetry, too. He’d read something of his during our week in Santa Fe. I got in touch with him and found out how to purchase his books. The first one I read, Not Exactly Job, is a sometimes irreverent but always sincere response to the Old Testament book of Job. From the preface of the book, Nathan says, “The very form and lyrical essence of the Book of Job is poetry. And this fact…this problem…lies at the core of the difficulties I’ve had over the years with conservative theology when it comes to the nature of interpretation. Poetry is, and has always been, ‘something else’ – a ‘something else’ that is filled with metaphor, idiom, double meaning, and hidden intent. To look at it literally…destroys it.”

After an intro like that, I had to read on. Here’s one of my favorite passages from Not Exactly Job:

This…Thing

But where can wisdom be found?                              28:12

Where does understanding dwell?

That is the question…so much more so

than “To be…or not to be…”

Shakespeare missed other things as well.

But this -wisdom and understanding-

what Solomon prayed for over riches

and fame-what I prayed for,

because of Solomon, and am now

paying the price-this…thing

that Jesus, Gandhi, and Martin

were murdered for possessing-

this…thing we are told to seek, yet

when we do, it seldom brings peace-

the best among us…often…going

slowly insane from the incessant

rumble of its quiet thunder.                                        28:13-15

Heavy, heady stuff. And yet, haven’t we all had thoughts like this before? Maybe just me…

The second book, Suffer the Little Voices (which was a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award in 2006), is a little darker.  We find our poet searching for answers and asking some tough questions, showing doubt in things he was raised to believe in, not afraid to say that he doesn’t know the answers himself. I found myself echoing many of those same doubts and questions. I have a very vivid memory of sitting in the front pew of my church with the rest of my youth group – something I started us doing after hearing someone complain about us always sitting in the back and not paying attention; I was a rebel even in church. I was looking around at the congregation one Sunday as we were all just vacantly repeating words back to the minister like autobots that should have been – in my opinion – shouted out with feeling and deep emotion. A big hairy doubt monster began to grown in my brain that day. I wondered what in the hell we were doing. What did all of this mindless rhetoric mean if no one was really paying attention. I started contemplating even scarier questions that I really didn’t know the answers to, that I was afraid to even say out loud.

Nathan Brown’s not afraid to ask those questions or let us peak into his imperfect thoughts. That is something I love about poetry. It can tap into the heart of any issue, get right down into the truth of the emotions, no matter how unpretty they may be. Real emotions make for great writing. We can all learn something from the poets.

Here is one of my favorite passages from Suffer the Little Voices:

Broken

I’ll write from the bottom,

stack letters and words-

maybe even enough punctuation-

around my feet at the base

of this dry well-

stepping up a layer at a time-

until piles of broken literature

raise my head to the surface.

There’s little light down here.

but I only need a little-

enough to be able to read

the piles of broken literature

written by others.

To see how they got out-

what they did when they

got back to the surface.

Have you ever had moments of doubt? Lost faith in something you believed in? Is this something you can use in your writing?