Saturday, February 6, 2010

Some poems I like

In the comments of one of my recent posts, Matt "Cozart" Walker prodded Brooklyn "Hot Stuff" Copeland to post some examples of poems she likes and doesn't like. To my delight, she did. Then Cozart followed suit. (Is this the next big meme?!) Now I want to do the same. I'm going to start with poems I like because those are easier to find. Usually when I don't like a poem I don't bother to finish it or commit its location to memory. (I already know Brooklyn won't like these. Sadly, we don't seem to share the same taste in poems.)

Note: I went first to (online) poems that I remember liking, as in, poems that struck me enough in the past five years or so as to be memorable. I'm not sure I like them all quite as much now, but just being memorable is really saying a lot, given the abundance of entirely unmemorable poems out there.

"I Am Not the Pilot" by Tony Tost: This is a gimmick poem. I don't generally go in for gimmicks (though I like conceptual poems, and it's a very fine line), but I find this poem to be rather haunting:
Folks I am not a pilot and therefore
I am not at the glamorous end of the sword.

I have no feelings for the machine.

I know what pilots look like.

I am not a pilot but I am beginning to understand the pilot's cause
"She Uses Her Pinky Finger When She Types" (scroll down) by Mathias Svalina: You really have to push past the first stanza for this one. Again, this has an upfront weakness (overbearing irony) but it overcomes it with real feeling. (I have no aversion to irony, cuss-words, cuteness and the like unless there's nothing else to the poem.)

"Cloud Walk 2" by Matthew Rohrer: Very idea-forward (as a wine can be fruit-forward), this works because it's charming. This kind of poem can otherwise fail when the poet is A) obviously derivative, B) not charming, C) etc. For "context" read Cloud Walks 1 and 3.

"Insomnia" (scroll down) by Matt Henriksen: A poem I don't want to like, but can't help but. The end is like the end of the novel-within-the-movie at the end of Stand By Me (Richard Dreyfuss typing, Doogie-Howser-style, "Jesus, does anyone?"). This is the Beatles' song of poems, overplayed, over-perfect, over-quotable, and O.

"Some Occurrences on the 7:18 to Penn" by Ana Bozicevic: I've been mostly citing very casual-toned, personable stuff, and here we go again. Again, this transcends, because Ana is a genius: "I love jewels. Don’t you just love jewels? / (Oh good, you’re my kind. She-assassin of light.)" She always starts off cool, then pushes it into the beautiful, when most wouldn't dare. As Sam once quoted me, "When in doubt, be beautiful."

"Gallery of the Daughter" (scroll down) by Kristen Kaschock: A poem with "little titles," as John would say. KK's whole project on daughters (or "dotters" as in her poems in No Tell Motel) is fascinating. Her poems are often quite performative, almost like plays. They seem to enact, rather than describe, and are almost campy, but still affecting. They remind me of dioramas.

"Then & Now" (scroll down) by Mary Walker Graham: MWG is essentially a "school of quietude" poet, but so good and so thoughtful, it puts the lie to the distinction. She traffics in the "poemy" without frittering away into inconsequence. I love the "like a person" refrain. It reminds me of certain poems I've written, but doesn't, therefore, feel transparent/easy. MWG isn't a frequent publisher, but I really like what I've seen.

"The Problem with Samy Rosenstock" (scroll down) by Heather Green: The first time I read this poem, I felt jealous. I wished I'd written it! Again, the comfortable, chatty voice, the cleverness, and then it breaks through to real feeling: "I've loved you this whole time, but I can't get there by half. And now I hear you're living in the extreme ultraviolet. Where only a moth or a baby could see you." Also I love poems that riff off math or science or philosophy without feeling like they have POSEUR stamped all over them. HG's chapbook No Omen has another great prose poem with a baby motif.


  1. "Hot Stuff" ?? Haaaaaaa! Haaaht Stuff!

    Elisa "Tall Drink" Gabbert.

    I want to read these poems. After I bake my cake and get ready for the SUPERBOWLBABY!!!! I think the more we challenge each other to think that we don't like the same poems, the more excited it'll be when we find a match! :-)

  2. ^ exciTING.

    (I haven't been drinking. Yet.)

    Go Colts!

  3. Yes yes, let me know if you actually like any of these. :) And happy cake-baking.

  4. weird how that cozart walker guy has two last names. he should prolly just pick one already.

    i'd like to point out that roughly 50% of the poems you picked have authors whose name contains either some variation of "matt" or "walker". well done.

  5. I REALLY liked the MWG poem that comes up first in your link:


    The story's in the broken shells, the fissures
    of the rocks. The water left those cracks.
    And it was the sea that rocked; that sang
    its story of self or selves. I said,
    You see me? And it did:
    the sea saw.

    I'm lying. It was a river
    that ran nearest us, and all that night
    I dreamt of alkali, dissolve.
    That's why I say the sea, I like the salt.

  6. Now I have to try to figure out what "school of quietude" means. Huh.

  7. oh noes brooklyn, don't sillimanize yourself! once you cross that event horizon, there's no turning back...

  8. B: Yes, that one is great too. And SOQ is a Silliman term as Matt points out. He sets up this (untenable) dichotomy of School of Quietude (the gentle, boring crap that wins prizes) and experimental or "post-avant" (the exciting important stuff!).

    M: Ha! Wow, I must be subconsciously drawn to Matts.

  9. Yeah-- all I'm finding about SoQ is that no one can agree on what it is, other than they don't want to fall under its umbrella because apparently it's an insult to be referred to as an academic, widely-read poet.

    What's the point of having a "school" or "movement" not based on the poetry you write, but on the connections you make in the poetry business?

    And what the hell is Third Way? Is Third Way, like, 90% of anyone who writes poetry?

    I don't think Silliman is irrelevant, and I do appreciate that he's putting his opinions out there for people to read. Lots of poets don't seem to have the balls to say one way or the other, or to just admit they have no clue. And I can appreciate that he's critical of "the establishment." I am, too, in general (I'm usually pretty critical of the anti-establishment, too, just because it's an establishment of a different kind, with the same ass-kissing and tip-toeing and sheep-ing around). But no one in poetry seems to know what "the establishment" is-- and the weird thing is, even people who claim to be anti-establishment don't seem to mind taking a big ol' slice of the pie when it's offered them. I can think of a few examples of poets who won book-length prizes recently that made me think, "Wait. That poet was actually ENTERING contests???!" So, really, is there an establishment to get all worked up about? Or just a splintered culture with no real innovation (I'm sorry- "flarf" or whatever doesn't count in my book) to imagine within a "historical" context to make everything else imaginable within a historical context? It seems like the splintered-ness makes people uncomfortable. I just like poems based on my own gut feelings about them. I think the whole "post-avant" and "quietude" thing is nuts.

    From now on, I'm a New Modernist. All I'm basing that on is the fact that all my favorite poets, the ones who've influenced me the most, died, like, decades ago. Anyone who doesn't like it can kiss it! ;-)

  10. hey elisa, thank you for the vote of like! cool to beautiful -- i'll adopt that as a manifesto. (also a perfect lemondrop this morning was reading or in some cases re-reading the other clickable poems here...)

  11. Hey Brooklyn, since I can't leave a comment on your post, I'm leaving one here -- yes, I was being sarcastic; "gentle, boring" is how Silliman characterizes the school, basically, and I agree with you that it's more about associations than your actual poetry. Same thing is maybe true of other schools (e.g. New York School), but SoQ is so sweeping as to be meaningless except in the most overtly exemplary cases (like, I dunno, Jane Hirschfield).

  12. rather than school of quietude, i just call it school of lameness. that way i can include not only everything that falls under SoQ but lots of other stuff as well. it's a time-saver.

  13. E-- I thought you were being sarcastic when I re-read your explanation.

    I think there is some good stuff that falls under "SoQ." It's not all lame. I think there's a lot of lame, unreadable stuff that falls under "P-A." I don't know which is more lame-- the lame of the SoQ or the lame of the P-A. I'm pretty sure I think the idea of a Third Way is lamest, though.

    Also, I had, like, half the people in my classes this morning. I think everyone's depressed or hungover.

  14. "Third Way" does not exist! Silli-Man has SPOKEN!