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Jason Bredle

Healthy Smiths

About this Poem 

"This was the first poem I wrote after the birth of my son, tumbling out of me late one night while returning from a friend's house in Pilsen at a point when I was unsure if I'd even write again. I had this great sense of excitement and anticipation for all the possible good that could come from his life, but also a sense of dread that his life would be riddled with the tedious, unnecessary and painstaking obstacles that have dominated my own. The only apropos reaction at the time seemed to be, 'whoa, weird.' We're at the mercy of a cruel, arbitrary world, and all we can do is hope it works out."

—Jason Bredle

Healthy Smiths

Jason Bredle

Every few months my friend and I get together
to talk about “what we’re doing” vis-à-vis
“the perceived goal of our dual attempt
to become masters of wordsmithing
in the face of insurmountable opposition.”
This is what I’m doing, we say,
compared to this person we don’t know
who does something similar
and is wildly more successful than us.
Powdered lips and lip powder
are quite the opposite
to anyone who’s ever powdered their lips
or shaved flakes off of their lips
in that great and violent kitchen of our beings.
Is it true, we wonder. Are our life-fates locked
aside from random pratfall, victim
of crime or illness? In twenty years
you’ll look back at this moment and go,
“whoa, weird,” but you’ll feel the same way
you feel now as you stare into the crisp,
dark city and say to yourself,
“whoa, weird.” I’m just trying
to get through this like the rest of us,
you used to think, with dextrose, maltodextrin,
malic acid, calcium stearate, carnauba wax,
blue 2, red 40, yellow 5,
less than 2% corn syrup and possibly egg
on my tongue. Who knows what could happen
to my lips. They could be powdered, shaved,
or ripped completely off my face
in one, impressive motion.

 

 

Copyright @ 2014 by Jason Bredle. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on July 28, 2014.

collection

Classic Books of American Poetry

This collection of books showcases the masterpieces of American poetry that have influenced—or promise to influence—generations of poets. Take a look.

collection

Poets in Conversation

In this collection of conversations, poets talk with one another about what inspires them most about the art form.

collection

Poetry and Place

In this collection, we examine the significance of place in contemporary American poetry. Here you'll find a range of poems, commentary, and essays that revolve around what we mean by the idea of "home" or of "homelessness" resulting from travel or displacement. Some works deal with a specific time and location, while others focus on a more socially-constructed view of place through the lenses of pop culture and identity. In the end, we hope this collection both confirms and challenges your notion of place in American poetry.

For a more thorough exploration of our theme, check out W. T. Pfefferle's anthology Poets on Place: Essays & Tales from the Road.

Marilyn Nelson
Photo credit: Larry Fink
collection

Poetry and Sports

While sports fans may not be widely known for their literary passions, the relationship between literature and athletic competition can be traced as far back as ancient Greece where spectator sports often included literary events as part of the festivities, and champion athletes were known to commission poets to write their victory songs. Even our own Walt Whitman was a baseball lover. Reporting for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1846, he wrote: "In our sun-down perambulations, of late, through the outer parts of Brooklyn, we have observed several parties of youngsters playing 'base,' a certain game of ball...Let us go forth awhile, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our close rooms...the game of ball is glorious."

We hope this collection not only demonstrates a variety of play and seriousness, but also frames poetry itself—the craft and game of it—as a lively and reactive art form, a pastime as great as any sport.

collection

Summer Reading

If you're looking to catch up on your reading this summer, take a look at this roundup of poetry collections published in the past year.

poem

Do not go gentle into that good night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas
1937