Friday, September 25, 2009

6 New Yorker Poems --- Mostly Squirrels

in hospital waiting rooms and waiting cubicles I read a few New Yorkers. and most of the poems in there are Squirrels. i'll explain a bit more later (maybe.)

1) "Hubris at Zunzal" by Rodney Jones

I kinda like this poem. Even though the title and beginning bother me. The title indulges in a kind of pretentiousness Charles Simic's fond of in his titles. (aside: I do like Simic. but, retarded titles is one of his worst flaws.)

here's the opening stanza:

Nearly sunset, and time on the water

of 1984. Language its tracer.

No image like the image of language.

1984-- huh ?? I don't know if I'm stupid or if the poet's being clumsy. Whatever, I'm confused. But by the end of the poem (coconut orgasm-sea-shower) I'm kind of ok with the strange clunky 1984. And it all comes together quite strangely. And with some excitement.

Rating: Medium

2) "Bereavement" by Kevin Young

A meditation on death and consciousness via the speaker's deceased father's dogs. (reminds me of the squirrel poem I mentioned briefly in a post a while back. a poem I also read in the New Yorker. a poem also read while visiting a doctor. in the same issue as the Jean Valentine poem that made me sigh Muldoon and Heaney -sigh-).

A squirrel poem's where you see a squirrel and meditate on it: its condition, plight, consciousness, conscience, prescience, messy-ness, etc, etc. Then you think of yourself. An epiphany occurs. Light or dark. Black or white. Sometimes striped. Like a skunk. Usually a circle's made. It's quite inspiring. Damnit! It makes me wretch! (I should go check my own poems. Probably a bunch of squirrels in there too. Wretch! Wretch! Wretch!)

A poem like this is not only entirely different from how I think and/or write (an alien, a dinosaur, a piece in a wax museum) I can find nothing positive to say about it. This is the sort of poem that brings about Epilepsy in an otherwise normal healthy adult person. Here are a couple of stanzas (in the middle of the poem) that had me really twitching:

I’ve begun to think of them

as my father’s other sons,

as kin. Brothers-in-paw.

My eyes each day thaw.

One day the water cuts off.

Then back on.

3) "Pernilla" by John Ashberry

Here's an excerpt from the poem. I couldn't find it on-line to link to.

Please don’t apologize for pissing me off, you were
probably right, and I was halfway out the door
anyway, the living-room door, leading to the hall
and all it contains. How is it that things can get
shiny and be peeling simultaneously? Seriously, Pa,
we would have come over if we’d knowed
the combination for long, and then folks’d have pointed
toward us, miming birdsong and the like.

What can I say about Ashberry? You've all got an opinon, one way or another. I don't have much of an opinon. Of any sort. I envy yall. Your places in the sunlight. Damn, I sound like a schmuck. O, well,...

Rating: No Rating

4) "The Game" by Bruce Smith

Longer lines. No stanzas. Muddier. But in the end my experience of this piece is kinda like my experience of Kevin Young's "Bereavement." And, so it reminds me of the squirrel poem. Yes, again, I was doused with Squirrel Juice.

But this time the meditation comes from Baseball (how original!). Here's how the poem ends:

...but I thought,

in all this infinity, of the Clementes, the Mayses, and the Yogis,

of the bats of ash I would have to crack and would I have to squeeze

them home? Would I be asked to sacrifice? Would I belly-button it

or break my wrists trying not to swing? There’s a box and a zone

in the air and the dirt I must own. To find my way out

or know where it is I sit, I keep my ticket stub in my fist.

Rating: Very Low to Low

Squarely in the middle of the huge Squirrel Pile. Mound. Bog. Hogbelly.

5) "At Lake Scugog" by Troy Jollimore

A meditation on relationships, time and shifting selves against the backdrop of water and sky and self. A bit cutesy but the annoying language constructions like

and what I believe I believe

sits uncomfortably next to

what I believe.

actually began to wear on me.

Kind of a squirrel poem. Or a cousin. Maybe a "rabbit" poem. And I kind of like rabbits.

Rating: Low to Medium

6) "Monja Blanca" by Clive James

A long 7-stanza meditation on (?) via a tree. But I'll never know the ? because I stopped after reading the first line of the 2nd stanza

This orchid’s sexual commerce is confined

Rating: Extremely Low-Virtually Zero

It's unfair, I'm sure, to rate a poem you've only read a fraction of. But, I couldn't stand the title. Couldn't stand what I read, and, closing the New Yorker in absolute fright This orchid’s sexual commerce is confined found myself covered in all forms of putrid squirrel fluid, runny and chunky,


Matt said...

Here's the link to Ashbery's poem:

Is this really a squirrel poem though? J.A. doesn't do epiphanies, except when making fun of them.

Matt said...

ok nevermind, you did say "most". peace be with you.

Rauan Klassnik said...

Matt, thanks for link,... not sure how I missed it!,... and, yes, i need some peace ! best, Rauan :)

Elisa Gabbert said...

I have a squirrel poem. Quite literally.

Rauan Klassnik said...

care to share, Elisa... i'd be happy to post/publish(or republish) here in comments section... or in a new post... with illustrations or photos too if you want.... let me know.... Rauan....

Elisa Gabbert said...

Fuck yeah! Illustrate me! I mean, the pics you posted here would be pretty good, though, ideally, you'll want to find dead squirrels for mine. You can find it here and you're welcome to re-post:

It's pretty old, so it won't break my heart if you mock it.

Rauan Klassnik said...

"It's pretty old, so it won't break my heart if you mock it."--- :) :)

printing it out now... and will have at it,.....


Anonymous said...

Your graphics rock--but--this is an old, tired, and yes, yes, true criticism of NYer poems. Famously, in the 60s, Marvin Bell wrote an essay about the NYer's fondness for dead animal poems--then Bell wrote a dead animal poem NYer style--and then the magazine published it. Kinnell's bear, Stafford's deer, Bly's owl, Bly's toad, Bly's hawk...

Jordan said...

Squirrels aren't epiphany litmus.

Dogs with tennis balls are epiphany litmus.

Anonymous is correcter than either of us -- dead animals are the ultimate epiphany litmus.

Squirrels are just malicious little hoarders hoarding small stakes fatty snacks like the rest of us.

Sometimes a squirrel in a poem is just a squirrel.

One person I know's first word was squirrel. Or turtle. He said them at about the same time.