Monday, April 18, 2011

April 18: Language Poems, Psalm 41, Six More To Go

I don't know if I have given my opinion of language poems in my blog before.  I just did a search of my labels to see if "language poems" was there.  It wasn't.  Therefore, I have to assume that this topic has never come up before, which really surprises me.  I have very strong opinions on the subject.  I guess I'll just give you an idea of where I stand on the current poetry in vogue with most literary magazines:  language poetry.  Here goes...

It sucks.

That being said, in Best American Poetry 2010, there was a language poem by Sharon Olds that I absolutely loved.  There are always exceptions to the rule.  On the whole, I can't stand poems that simply are trying to be clever deconstructions of words, language, or syntax.  Those kinds of poems lack a certain heft which I find in the poems that I like.  If the entire aim of a poem is to confound expectations, create confusion, I don't really care to read it.  Perhaps it's old school, but I actually expect poetry to communicate something.  Language is a vehicle to bring people together--poet and reader, friend and friend, husband and wife, wife and son.  Not drive them apart.

OK, I'm stepping down off my soap box now.  And, having said what I just said, my psalm today is a language poem, or my version of a language poem (which is very similar to Sharon Olds' version).  I'm attempting to be playful with language but also reach some emotional depth.  That is my intention, anyway.  The idea for this poem came to me yesterday when I spoke with my Cajun friend about the Olds poem.  I thought I'd try to experiment a little.  The result is below.

My daughter is home sick today.  Sore throat.  She's been sick all weekend.  My wife took her to the doctor this morning.  I have to pick up antibiotic after work for her.  Right now, my daughter is having a meltdown because of all the homework she has to complete before she returns to school tomorrow.  I believe her exact words to me were, "WHAT?!!  THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE!"  Then she disappeared into the bowels of her room, and my wife hasn't seen her since.  Being a fourth grader is hard work.

Forty-one poems down, six to go.  The end is in sight.

Saint Marty hopes you enjoy this language poem.  If you don't, you can join his daughter in her bedroom, sulking and crying.

Psalm 41:  Holy Week

I am weak this Holy week,
Tired of holes in my life,
My weaknesses apparent, transparent
In the weeks of unpaid cable, electric bills,
Holes in my savings account, zeros
Piled high as the National Debt Ceiling.
Nonillion.  Decillion.  Octodecillion.
Exotic terms for emptiness as great
As snowfall in Thompson Pass, Alaska,
Where white mounts to such levels
It can’t be measured.  Certain
Places celebrate hole-ness.  Jackson Hole.
Hole in the Wall.  Bully Hole Bottom.
The universe has black holes,
Where weak matter collapses, swirls
To gravity, density, infinity.  Musicians
Play whole notes.  Mathematicians count
Whole numbers.  My son drinks whole
Milk.  Thomas had such weak faith
He wouldn’t believe until he put
His fingers through the holes
In Christ’s palms, in His side.
Holy weakness.  Or weakly whole.
This whole morning, I’ve chased white
Rabbits into holes, found myself staring
At mirrors, seen myself whole, in parts,
A weak reflection, an apparition.
I'm a 98-pound-weakling on the road
To Golgotha,  Christ comes along,
Kicks sand in my eyes
With His holy feet.

Wholly Weak

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