Poetry Feed

Time Is a Mother

Time Is a MotherTime Is a Mother by Ocean Vuong
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this up from a queer friendly bookstore in Anoka, Minnesota. The clerk was so happy I was buying Ocean Vuong and moreso when I told her I'd read his other two books. "As you should," she said.

I began reading that afternoon.

I did struggle some to get into this one and it only really won me over in the final sections. The poem "Kunsterroman" is searing and profound. And most of them after it follow in that vein.

Vuong is such a great expressionist of pain. I do enjoy his moments of joy, especially erotic joy. Maybe one of these days he will be able to write a collection centered more on the latter? That would be a joy to read.

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Vulnerability, Maturity, Youthfulness

Yesterday was full and well-rounded.  Got some divorce stuff done.  Took a nice walk with the dog.  Gardened.  Read.  Built Legos with Sebastian.  And got some window trim painted that's been needing it for a while.  

While painting, I was listening to podcasts.  A Krista Tippett On Being interview with poet David Whyte really resonated, especially in its discussions of heartbreak, loss, vulnerability, aging, and youthfulness.  Here's a link to the show and it's transcript.  And below a couple of excerpts.  First, on youthfulness at all stages of life.

All the visible qualities that take form and structure will have to change in order to keep the conversation real, just as we go through the different decades of our life, we have to change the structures of our life in order to keep things new, in order to keep our youthfulness.

And I do think there is a quality of youthfulness which is appropriate to every decade of our life. It just looks different. We have this fixed idea of youthfulness from our teens or our 20s. But actually, there’s a form of youthfulness you’re supposed to inhabit when you’re in your 70s or your 80s or your 90s. It’s the sense of imminent surprise, of imminent revelation, except the revelation and the discovery is more magnified. It has more to do with your mortality and what you’re going to pass on and leave behind you, the shape of your own absence.

In the last year I have discovered a new youthfulness here in my late forties.  I hadn't used that term to describe it, but hearing Whyte's description, I think it is an apt term.  

I also resonated with this discussion of vulnerability:

“The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability” — how we inhabit our vulnerability — “how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance. Our choice is to inhabit vulnerability as generous citizens of loss, robustly and fully, or conversely, as misers and complainers, reluctant, and fearful, always at the gates of existence, but never bravely and completely attempting to enter, never wanting to risk ourselves, never walking fully through the door.”

A "generous citizen of loss."  What an interesting concept.  I do think he's correct.  Loss, grief, heartbreak, and suffering are inherent parts of the human experience that cannot and are not to be avoided.  Life is learning how to live well with them and even in the midst of them to discover that youthfulness he mentions.


One of the Butterflies

One of the Butterflies
by W. S. Merwin

The trouble with pleasure is the timing
it can overtake me without warning
and be gone before I know it is here
it can stand facing me unrecognized
while I am remembering somewhere else
in another age or someone not seen
for years and never to be seen again
in this world and it seems that I cherish
only now  a joy I was not aware of
when it was here although it remains
out of reach and will not be caught or named
or called back and if I could make it stay
as I want to it would turn into pain


The Dream of a Common Language

The Dream of a Common Language: Poems 1974-1977The Dream of a Common Language: Poems 1974-1977 by Adrienne Rich
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Whatever happens with us, your body
will haunt mine."

Yes, I am living through that experience right now and was so struck to see it in Rich's poems and so well-articulated in written word.

And that is the experience of reading Rich, encountering oneself and one's experiences richly articulated and wrapped in wisdom and insight.

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The Poems of Edward Taylor

The Poems of Edward TaylorThe Poems of Edward Taylor by Edward Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"File bright our rusty brains, and sharpen them."

More than a year ago, while reading Harold Bloom's anthology of American religious poetry, I greatly enjoyed the selections from Edward Taylor, a Puritan poet, for their surprising and fun metaphors and images. I searched and found this out-of-print volume. I don't know that I needed to read all of the poems of Edward Taylor, a great selection would have sufficed. But I did enjoy them and broke up the reading of this comprehensive volume by reading other poetry over the last year.

"Woes Pickled in Revenges Powdering Trough"

I delight in the idea of pickled woes!

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Nature Poem

Nature PoemNature Poem by Tommy Pico
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"You can't be an NDN person in today's world/ and write a nature poem. I swore to myself I would never write a nature/poem. Let's be clear, I hate nature--hate its guts."

In this fun and provocative volume, contemporary queer, indigenous poet Tommy Pico reflects on his identity and the expectations for what an indigenous poet should write and the tensions and conflicts between the two. His poems are fun and irreverent and break the mold of what most people expect from poetry.

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