"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Poetry Review: HOW TO BE PERFECT

How to Be Perfect: Poems
by Ron Padgett is a poetry collection for everyone. It is for people who really, really don't think they like poetry and for those who really, really do. It would appeal to those who don't understand most poems and for those who seem to get them all. It could tickle the funny bone of most readers yet cause others to stop and think, nodding approval. In other words, this is the poetry book for you.

I am new to Ron Padgett so I did a little (and I mean little) bit of research. I had to laugh when reading his bio, found here at the Poetry Foundation, the first accomplish it mentions is as a high school student he started an avant-garde publication with some friends. It ran for five issues! This piece of information just cracked me up as I looked at his many, many literary accomplishments but I guess it is there to let us know from a young age Ron Padgett was meant to be a writer and a poet. As a Fulbright Scholar in 1965 he spent a year in France translating French poetry. He now describes himself as a poet, an editor, and a translator. He has published 20 collections of poetry. This collection, How to Be Perfect, was published in 2007. His collection How Long (2011) was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. In 2018 he was awarded the Frost Medal for lifetime distinguished achievement in poetry. About his New and Selected Poems (1995) a reviewer said, “a fine sampling of a restless, hilarious, and haunting lyric intelligence, a ‘phony’ whose variable voices form a rare and raucous orchestration: the real thing.” I could say the same thing about this collection.

It was the humor I found so refreshing. As I was reading the poem from which the book was named, "How to Be Perfect" I was just humming along with everything it suggested: "Get some sleep. / Don't give advice. / Take care of your teeth and gums. / ... Wear comfortable shoes..."  All sensible stuff everyone should do. Then I turn a page, the poem is nine pages long, and see this: "Do not practice cannibalism." I just about fell out of my chair. Padgett was playing with his readers and up until then I didn't know it. Good one!

In another poem, which is really just a collection of thoughts, titled "Pikakirjotusvihko" I was intrigued from the start because of that title. Aren't you? This time Padgett isn't giving us advice on how to be perfect, he is letting us know what was running through his brain at the moment he jotted it down. None of the thoughts written separately would make much of an impact but together they make for a hilarious mishmash of impressions.
  • Fiddlesticks
  • /
  • "Morning ablutions" used to sound like something that people did in the nineteenth century. Now I do them.
  • /
  • It's almost midnight. No wonder it's late.
  • /
  • How many people, alone in the privacy of their own homes, have ever sung the national anthem? Probably very few. Maybe none! Solitude is not patriotic.
  • /
  • It is irritating to be almost old without having grown up.
These were so good I had to share them with my husband and we have been agreeing with and laughing about them ever since then. By the way, Padgett tells the reader about the title as his last thought in the poem. I won't give it away but you must know by now, it is funny.

I am not giving this collection near the tribute it deserves. I hope, though, you are intrigued enough to read more yourself. And I am off to check out the library collection to see if they have any more of Padgett's poetry books. I want to read more.


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