Sunday, June 19, 2011

poetry 180: A Turning Back To Poetry

Some readers and writers do not like Billy Collin's poetry. They say it is too easy among other things. They write

and here

and here on his recent book Nine Horses Review

"In Nine Horses, Billy Collins, U.S. poet laureate and author of the bestselling collection Sailing Alone Around the Room, attempts to find beauty in simplicity, but ends up achieving the simply banal. Some poems, such as "Rooms" and "Obituaries," in which readers are given freedom to draw their own conclusions, are memorable, but the language in Nine Horses has little music and thoughts are plainly stated." 
Read the rest of the review and readers' comments.

There are days when I find  what the naysayers say about B.C.'s  poetry true. Other days I revel in his writing for the very same reasons. Some days all I want is a warm piece of freshly baked bread smothered with butter or an apple in a poem that is an an apple nothing more.

I am a bit behind on my reading. poetry 180, the anthology and the poetry 180 website  have been around for a while. Read about Collin's poetry 180 project that was created with high school students in mind to make poetry more accessible and enjoyable for these readers and with the intention that one poem could be read or listened to each of the 180 days school was in session that year.

I was curious what kind of poems would be in a Billy Collin's edited anthology. Many are witty and charming as are Collin's poems. Many do not require minutes or hours of reflection but there are poems that ellicit  reflection and that feeling of angst that appears in much contemporary poetry, that feeling some naysayers of Collins suggest is not in his own work.

Among the poets whose work appears in the anthology are Stephen Dobyns, Sharon Olds, Phillip Levine, Charles Simic, David Ray, Rebecca Wee, Naomi Shihab Nye, Lucille Clifton and Daisey Fried.

 These are three of my favorite poems in the anthology
 One is by children's book author Jane Yolen.

Fat Is Not a Fairy Tale

I am thinking of a fairy tale,
Cinder Elephant,
Sleeping Tubby,
Snow Weight,
where the princess is not
anorexic, wasp-waisted,
flinging herself down the stairs.
I am thinking of a fairy tale,
Hansel and Great,
Bounty and the Beast,
where the beauty
has a pillowed breast,
and fingers plump as sausage.
I am thinking of a fairy tale
that is not yet written,
for a teller not yet born,
for a listener not yet conceived,
for a world not yet won,
where everything round is good:
the sun, wheels, cookies, and the princess.
~ Jane Yolen

My Father's Hat  
by Mark Irwin

Sunday mornings I would reach
high into his dark closet while standing
   on a chair and tiptoeing reach
higher, touching, sometimes fumbling
   the soft crowns and imagine
I was in a forest, wind hymning
   through pines, where the musky scent
of rain clinging to damp earth was
   his scent I loved, lingering on
bands, leather, and on the inner silk
   crowns where I would smell his
hair and almost think I was being
   held, or climbing a tree, touching
the yellow fruit, leaves whose scent
   was that of a clove in the godsome
air, as now, thinking of his fabulous
   sleep, I stand on this canyon floor
and watch light slowly close
   on water I'm not sure is there. 
Dog's Death by John Updike
She must have been kicked unseen or brushed by a car.
Too young to know much, she was beginning to learn
To use the newspapers spread on the kitchen floor
And to win, wetting there, the words, "Good dog!
                                                                    Good dog!"
We thought her shy malaise was a shot reaction.
The autopsy disclosed a rupture in her liver.
As we teased her with play, blood was filling her skin
And her heart was learning to lie down forever.
Monday morning, as the children were noisily fed
And sent to school, she crawled beneath the youngest's bed.
We found her twisted and limp but still alive.
In the car to the vet's, on my lap, she tried
To bite my hand and died. I stroked her warm fur
And my wife called in a voice imperious with tears.
Though surrounded by love that would have upheld her,
Nevertheless she sank and, stiffening, disappeared.
Back home, we found that in the night her frame,
Drawing near to dissolution, had endured the shame
Of diarrhoea and had dragged across the floor
To a newspaper carelessly left there.  Good dog.

John Updike, POETSPEAK In Their Work, About Their Work (A Selection by Paul B. Janeczko)