Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Poem A Day #8

Here are a couple from one of my favorite books of poetry, a slim paperback volume published in 1966 by Scholastic, compiled by Dunning, Lueders and Smith, called "Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle... And Other Modern Verse."  It contains some of the sharpest and most luminous short poems of the middle 20th century, by almost all of the midcentury imagist masters, and is geared toward young people getting into poetry.  It is one of the most fun, startling and perfect introductions to modern poetry one could have, and it's still in print:

My copy is a beat up fourth edition from '68.  The pages are warped and orange, the cover dog-eared and stained and shredded around the edges.  The name "Vilma Salaveria" is written in crabbed cursive all down the inside cover, in different inks and pencils, and over to one side the name "M. Jane Collins" signed in an adult's practiced hand, and the first page has ".50" marked in the top right corner.  It's clearly been around.  Several poems have words circled in pencil or a underlined in pen.  I love books like this.  There's more input than just that of the editor or collector; there are other hands, unknown, that have something to say, that pass on part of their experience with this book; that show me what they were into when they read it whenever ago.

These two poems are pretty representative of the book's contents.  The first, by Beatrice Janosco, was the linchpin of my understanding of metaphor, and a perfect example of a poem that throws two shadows.


In the gray evening
I see a long green serpent
With its tail in the dahlias.

It lies in loops across the grass
And drinks softly at the faucet.

I can hear it swallow.

—Beatrice Janosco

The second is a gorgeous list poem by Elizabeth Coatsworth, which in its meditations gains a rolling, sure-footed rhythm and a broad expanse of visual power, expressed in the lightest and most graceful of ways.


Swift things are beautiful:
Swallows and deer,
And lightning that falls
Bright-veined and clear,
Rivers and meteors,
Wind in the wheat,
The strong-withered horse,
The runner's sure feet.

And slow things are beautiful:
The closing of day,
The pause of the wave
That curves downward to spray,
The ember that crumbles,
The opening flower,
And the ox that moves on
In the quiet of power.

- Elizabeth Coatsworth

So, that's a week so far.  How is this working?  Let me know if you folks are reading this, and if it's doing anything for you.  More tomorrow.

Legal notice:
Some may feel that the inclusion of works not in the public domain is a violation of the fair-use doctrine of US copyright law. I obviously do not agree, but I will gladly defer to the wishes of the rightsholder, and if anyone wishes for a post of their work or work for which they own the intellectual rights to be taken down, they may ask for its removal and it will be so. I claim no ownership and have no rights as to the works I will be posting, save for any that were written by me.

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