I suppose every poet writes at least one poem about poetry, although it’s obviously bad form to make a habit of it—for, as is attributed to that other habit, you may go blind.
Poem Broken Open (published by Earthshine, 2012) was written after a rabid bout of poetry reading. The kind of reading you do when you realize you’ll never cover the canon but think that if you skip around enough you’ll at least earn something like a Norton’s Anthology diploma.
Of course it’s madness. But then anyone who writes or reads poetry will have been, at one point, touched. And that’s the beauty and burden of poetry. In any case, the following is what comes of this muse-y madness—a madness you’ll see metabolized at the Edmonton Poetry Festival.
POEM BROKEN OPEN
I like the ribald poems of sloggers and shufflers, their sweeping hands and glint-eyes, the meat still in their teeth as they tell it loud.
I like swaggering poems—poems that have a pack of Players rolled up under a short-sleeve.
I like bawdy, libidinous, flowing, flowering Song of Solomon poems;
I like a full-lipped-Flaubert of a poem. And I like the balanced elegance of plaited verse—a filigree of Frost.
I like a surprise lyric—one that at the end of a perfect day happily pushes you in the pool.
And I love the one that steals you away to a slow river with broad grassy banks, and lets you lie there and breathe.
Such permission in a poem is like roughed-in plumbing—all you need do is choose your tub, fill and bathe.
I like poems that are unsure of themselves. An educator will say these are weak and deficient, but I like them because they are so much like people.
I like a carefully-wrapped haiku, and inside something turquoise and without purpose—but for its “old pond” beauty.
I like care-less poems, poems that sleep-in, then leave you notes under your windshield wiper while you’re in church—telling you when and where to meet them.
I love a free-verse small epiphany poem—like a friend skipping class that hangs outside your schoolroom window madly waving her arms and grinning, waiting for you to notice her—and the clear sky behind.
I like the ones that take you seriously, respect your mind and your time—and if not your time, at least your mind.
But I don’t like freighted teleological poems or big cosmic ontological poems. They are like model rockets—all decals and plastic—that topple over in a minor gust, spark and fizzle and spin in circles on the pavement.
Don’t like poems that tousle you, hated being tousled, hate the word tousle.
And I don’t much like hail-fellow-well-met cowboy poems, although I’ll admit to smiling every time.
Don’t like high-flown, God-bless-’em poems. They’re all doily. They don’t have ears. So how can they have a heart?
I do not care for a poem that supports a thesis, unless it came before the thesis was conceived, in which case it can glow—prescient in brilliance.
More, I like poems that spitball you, chase you and chide you with their slant rhymes and bumpy meter and screwy trochee—and you sit there and take it because they’re saying something important.
But the poem that breaks me open, the one that hurts without doing me harm, oh, give me this:
Give me your signet, your sonnet, your elegy or epic, and I’ll climb, kneel, open my hands, eat the host and drink the wine; trust me, I’d wait through any black night with you.