Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Elephant Rocks

I liked topics in this book of poems by Kay Ryan, and the length and number of the poems, and typeface, and even the paper and binding. And I didn't dislike the poems-- most of them just, I don't know, didn't resonate with me, somehow. My favorite poems are ones that cover the surface a topic, leading you to believe that their goal is to encircle that topic, but then, to your surprise, they plunge down deep, into the heart of things, in a way that shocks and surprises. For me, these poems did the covering, but their plunge just didn't penetrate, somehow. Here's one of my favorites from the book, for example:
In the presence of supple
goodness, some people
grow less flexible,
experiencing a woodenness
they wouldn't have thought possible.
It is as strange and paradoxical
as the combined suffering
of Pinocchio and Gepetto
if Pinocchio had turned and said
I can't be human after all. 
You see what I mean? It's more like the end is an illustration of the beginning, as opposed to a paradigm shift built on the platform of what came before. Contrast that with a favorite Emily Dickinson poem of mine:
Fame is a bee
It has a song—
It has a sting—
Ah, too, it has a wing. 
Which has all the things I like best in a poem. See how it tricks you? "Fame lures you in, but it's dangerous..." and then everything flips! "And it allows you to fly!" It's startling, and perception shifting, and it leaves you wondering about how Emily Dickinson, of all people, really feels about fame. Sheesh, I feel like a bully, beating up Kay Ryan with Emily Dickinson. This isn't meant to be a criticism of Kay Ryan, but just me realizing what it is I like best in poetry. I often wonder what a person's taste in poetry says about them. I wonder what it says about me that this poem is my favorite one in Elephant Rocks:
From the Greek for
woven or plaited,
which quickly translated
to basket. Whence the verb
crib, which meant "to filch"
under cover of wicker
anythingsome liquor,
a cutlet.
For we want to make off
with things that are not
our own. There is a pleasure
theft brings, a vitality
to the home.
Cribbed objects or answers
keep their guilty shimmer
forever, have you noticed?
Yet religions downplay this.
Note for instance, in our
rehearsals of innocence,
the substitution of manger for crib—
as if we ever deserved that baby,
or thought we did.
You can see this does all the things I like! One interesting thing about the poems in this book -- some rhyme, some don't. It's very cool that she's not afraid to have really fun rhymes, sometimes (Time is rubbery. If you hide it in the shrubbery). I know one thing -- writing poems requires a special bravery.

1 comment: