Monday, August 24, 2009

Smaug Poems

I picked up The Best American Poetry 1999 the other day cause it's what the library had. I'm enraptured. It's edited by Robert Bly, and I read his whole introduction; it's made me look at these (and all) poems differently. Bly talks about poems having "heat," which he doesn't really describe but lets you get to contextually; I'd say he's talking about a combination of passion, intensity, truth, and somehow a window to the divine, all wrapped up in the guise of words. It's the heat you get when the poem "brings the soul up close to the thing," allowing the reader to bypass the normal physical, intellectual, and emotional hurdles humans have when taking in new information. It's as if these poems, and any poems which have this quality of heat, are the rare arrows which fly straight and true to that one tiny paper-thin scale on the immense bulk of the whole diamond-scaled dragon, taking each poem's meaning straight to our hearts.

Like this:

Now in my dial of glass appears
the soldier who is going to die.
He smiles, and moves about in ways
his mother knows, habits of his.
The wires touch his face: I cry
NOW. Death, like a familiar, hears

And look, has made a man of dust
of a man of flesh. This sorcery
I do. Being damned, I am amused
to see the centre of love diffused
and the wave of love travel into vacancy.
How easy it is to make a ghost.

from Keith Richards' "How to Kill", written during WWII.

Or just this:

Outside, in the distance, the endless rain
of shells and sough of trains behind the hills.
The old world falling to its knees like an elephant.

from Chard Deniord's "Pasternak"

Or this:

Waving Goodbye

I wanted to know what it was like before we
had voices and before we had bare fingers and before we
had minds to move us through our actions
and tears to help us over our feelings,
so I drove my daughter through the snow to meet her friend
and filled her car with suitcases and hugged her
as an animal would, pressing my forehead against her,
walking in circles, moaning, touching her cheek,
and turned my head after them as an animal would,
watching helplessly as they drove over the ruts,
her smiling face and her small hand just visible
over the giant pillows and coat hangers
as they made their turn into the empty highway.

by Gerald Stern

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