Thursday, August 25, 2005


A good day at the library, friends. It turns out that Skokie PL has a copy of Allen Grossman's elusive Introduction to Poetry lectures-on-cassette, which I've hankered after for years now. Not only can I listen to them in the car during my morning crawl to the office--well, I can if I borrow my daughter's tape player, at least--I can also crib new ideas for my own Reading Poetry course in the fall! (Naturally, you'll hear about them here, too, and on the listserv.)

But wait! There's more! At the Friends of the Library sale table, I scored, for a dollar a throw, Patrick Kavanagh's Collected Poems, an old Carl Rakosi collection, Amulet, and a copy of Annie Finch's Eve. Not quite the sort of haul that Mark brings back from NYC, but it will do for a poor boy like me.

Here's a poem I like from the start of the Finch. It has a lovely dactylic feel, which is always fun (she's written on how such meters have been coded "feminine" at various times); it also reminds me of my daughter, who is always a hoot in church and just after, singing parodies of the hymns. (Sometimes inadvertant, but brilliant, as in: "Glory to God in the highest, / And peace to us people on Earth." Shades of Yehuda Amichai: "God-Full-of-Mercy, the prayer for the dead. / If God was not full of mercy, / Mercy would have been in the world, / Not just in Him.") But I digress: here's the poem:

Running in Church
--for Marie

Then, you were a hot-thinking, thin-lidded tinderbox.
Losing your balance meant nothing at all. You would
pour through the aisles in the highest cathedrals,
careening deftly as patriarchs brooded.

You made the long corridors ring, tintinnabular
echoes exploring the pounded cold floor,
forcing the walls to the truth of your progress:
there was a person in this church's core.

Past thick stained-glass colors wafted and swirling
in pooled interludes that swung down from the rafters,
cinnabar wounds threw light on your face, where the
pliant young bones were dissolving in laughter.
Wonderful, that--especially "brooded," which implicitly feminizes those patriarchs via Milton (God brooding, bird-like, over the abyss), and at the close, I think, where you need to imagine the road-not-taken, the unwritten, but clearly imagined alternative course the daughter's life might have taken (her bones not pliant but stiffening, not dissolving but growing rigid, not in laughter but in tears or punishment) for the poem's real bite to be felt. Wonderful shift in diction, too, from the first line to the last. How did that happen, I ask myself--or would ask my students.

Great fun all around.

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