Sunday, May 22, 2011

Your Sunday Poem

Last month ago in the L.A. Times, there was a story by Oliver Gettell about a poetry reading done at Royce Hall (UCLA) by poets Kay Ryan and Billy Collins. Gettel begins by noting, “After reading a truly good poem, one finds it hard to look at the world in quite the same way again.” Both Collins and Ryan write poems that are often “witty,” but always with a knife’s sharp edge hiding in amongst the words. Said Ryan of Collins’ work, “In a way, I enjoy what so very many people enjoy, and that is the easy, inviting tone and pace of his work, where he walks you down a path and the path gets much more interesting and funnier than you knew.”

Here’s an excellent example of what Ryan and Gettell are talking about, from Collin’s new book, Horoscopes for the Dead.


In those weeks of midsummer
when the roses in gardens begin to give up,
the big red, white, and pink ones –
the inner, enfolded petals growing cankerous,
the ones at the edges turning brown
or fallen already, down on their girlish backs
in the rough beds of turned-over soil,

then how terrible the expressions on their faces,
a kind of was it all really worth it? look,
to die here slowly in front of everyone
in the garden of a bed-and-breakfast
in a provincial English market town,
to expire by degrees of corruption
in plain sight of all the neighbors passing by,

the thin mail carrier, the stocky butcher
(thank God the children pay no attention),
the swiveling faces in the windows of the busses,
and now this stranger staring over the wall,
his hair disheveled, a scarf loose around his neck,
writing in a notebook, writing about us no doubt,
about how terrible we look under the punishing sun.


Alon Perlman said...

It’s like a reverse “To see Venice and die”.
Cradle to comfortable grave or dislocated.
Dawn to dusk in the same yard’s soil.
Indeed. “Was it all really worth it?”

There are worse times, ways and places to die
than by midsummer heat exhaustion expiration
in the fenced garden of a bed and breakfast in Cheatingham,
or Farthingdale or Wikkerton or even “Kent on Avon”.

Perhaps the tourist town sports slow trams, not double decker busses.
Perhaps this takes place this time in every southern coastal burgh
Much like Penzance, or much, much further West;
Baywoodshire, Ossosvale or Questa by the sea.

Though why would roses need seek comfort from the astrological arts.
They live in the here and now, these devout followers of the sun.
Never slaves are they to the whims of the seasons.
They pass the same way. It’s coded in their DNA,

Manifest destiny manifest. Misreported history
Observed with vicious energy, vicarious envy,
By busy grumbling bee or hovering stingless wasp.
Oh, Compulsive Habitual Scribbling Addicts

Now, “Horoscopes for dead people”;
that there makes so much more sense.
“Ghosts of former people”, unbound by coffins,
carrying their grave doubts, to beyond the beyond, into the great uncertain.

Sewertoons said...

WOW! Thanks Ann - this one's a hoot!

Sewertoons said...

And thanks Alon too!

Churadogs said...

Alon sez:"Now, “Horoscopes for dead people”;
that there makes so much more sense.
“Ghosts of former people”, unbound by coffins,
carrying their grave doubts, to beyond the beyond, into the great uncertain."

Actually, it's far funnier than that. So, support a poet, go buy the book today.

Alon Perlman said...

This one sampling shows Collins to be a great poet, and consistent with the review, a sly humorous craftsman, developing complexity and interest.
But alas, I have a mediocre budding poet to support, so web searches, Canonic Sunday brunch offerings, or Los Osos public Library, is what it’ll have to be, for me.