another poem

i've had, i would say, four major phases in my life where i've been genuinely interested in poetry—interested in reading it, as opposed to writing it. because writing it is a very different activity. writing it, it's as if the word "poetry" is a thousand miles away. it's inapplicable. what i'm trying to do is make some new rowland emmett machine that doesn't have a name. i know of course that it's going to end up being called a poem, but "poem" is one of those bothersome technical terms. it's so difficult to pronounce. you either pronounce it "pome," or "poe-im" or "poe-em." it's not an english word, it's a greek word that's had the end chopped off it, so it doesn't fit—it's got that diphthongy quality. —nicholson baker, the anthologist

lucky for me i have a friend who lends me her poetry books. of late i have been reading sharon olds, getting completely absorbed in her words + stories. i remember learning about the art of the short story, reading alice munro and being carried along by her narratives, and realizing the measured, sensitive hand the best short stories require. sharon olds' poems embody moments that flower in my imagination to encompass a larger story, so i consider her something of a short story-writer, too.

in the dark square wooden room at noon
the mother had a talk with her daughter.
the rudeness could not go on, the meanness
to her little brother, the selfishness.
the 8-year-old sat on the bed
in the corner of the room, her irises dark as
the last drops of something, her firm
face melting, reddening,
silver flashes in her eyes like distant
bodies of water glimpsed through woods.
she took it and took it and broke, crying out
i hate being a person! diving
into the mother
as if
a deep pond—and she cannot swim,
the child cannot swim.

—sharon olds, from her book satan says


the great thing about poetry is that you can read just one poem and wind up with a new idea or thought or outlook. another great thing about it is that your new thought may differ vastly from someone else's. whether that thought stays with you forever or just for the day ahead, you've at least managed to get somewhere interesting... if only for a little while.

images: 1+2


  1. I really enjoyed the poem. I re-read it a few times... what imagery.

    This also made me think about the way I pronounce poem - "pome". Do you?

  2. she has so many good ones. i'll probably post another of her poems another day. i'm happy you liked it! and YES... i am a "poe-em"-er.

    of course, when i first read that passage, i had to go through and try out all three pronunciations, just to be sure. :)


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