In the second volume of poetry, which I just finished reading last night in bed, I Sing the Body Eclectic, the editor, Patrice Vecchione, selected poems about the body. And just like the title says, the selections are very eclectic. Some of the poems usher me straight down memory lane like "Cobwebs" by Melinda Goodwin. The poem is about a memory of a time when a young girl goes through her mother's things, trying on shoes and clothes, the scents of the underthings in drawers, looking at herself in a mirror from the Fuller Brush man. As I read this poem my childhood came zooming forward. I used to do the same thing. I'd go through my mother's things, trying things on, smelling her perfume, combing my hair with her brush purchased by, you guessed it, the Fuller Brush man. In another poem, "Pastel Dresses" the poet Stephen Dobyns is trying to recall a memory of a dance when a girl had on such a lovely dress. He remembers the feel of his hand on her back and the stiff fabric but he can't remember her name or her eye colors. In the end he muses, "How can we not love / this world for what it gives us? How / can we not hate it for what it takes away?" I'm in that time-warp more often these days. Remembering minute delays clearly and forgetting important ones. These poets have given voice to my life!
I've always found the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda to be a bit inaccessible until I read his poem here "Your Laughter". It opens with these marvelous lines, "Take bread away from me, if you wish, / take air away, but / do not take from me your laughter." I want to read this poem over and over because isn't it true? The qualities we love in another person become a source of nourishment to us. Another poem by Neruda, this one titled "Semen" and one by Erin Belieu, "Erections" made me laugh. If students only knew what poems were contained in these volumes so quietly sitting on the library shelves, they would be checked out all the time!
In the poem, which is written in a prose-style, by Gary Young called, "He Wheeled a Corpse", I sat dumbfounded after I read it. So I reread it. Then I read it, again. Can this be true? And what does it mean? Do bones really glow when the body is cremated?
He wheeled a corpse in the narrow furnace, and said, there's
something I want to show you. He lit the gas, and the head rose
from the table, the arms flew open and the body sat there for a
moment in the fire. The flesh peeled away from the bones, and
the bones snapped and burned with a fierce blue flame. When the
oven had cooled and the door was opened, the ashes and bits of
bone threw off a pale, opalescent light. That light, he said, is what
I wanted you to see. ---Gary Young
|Artwork by Gary Young|
...sorry Mr. Crazy HorseSo why do I continue to read poetry? Why do I wade my way through volumes of poems when I don't understand most of them? Because, sometimes I find a diamond in the rough; some phrases or whole poems which rock my world. They may make me smile and recall happy memories, they may speak the words that seem to be my life, or it may, like "Giving Blood" give me a whole new perspective or point of view to consider.
but we've already taken too much of your blood and you
won't be eligible
to donate for another generation or two
If you, like my blogging friend, feel befuddled by poetry, I suggest you start with an easy anthology like The Body Eclectic, or one where the editor offers insights to assist the reader. Happy reading.