Your black coat is a door
in the storm. The snow
we don’t mention
clings to your boots & powders
& puffs. & poof. Goes.
Dust of the fallen. Right here
at home. The ache
of someone gone-missing. Walk it off
like a misspoken word.
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Your black coat is a door
A person protests to fate:
“The things you have caused
me most to want
are those that furthest elude me.”
Fate is sympathetic.
To tie the shoes, button a shirt,
for only the very young,
the very old.
During the long
Last summer, two discrete young snakes left their skin on my small porch, two mornings in a row. Being post-modern now, I pretended as if I did not see them, nor understand what I knew to be circling inside me. Instead, every hour I told my son to stop with his incessant back-chat. I peeled a
In April 2014 A Poet’s Glossary by Academy Chancellor Edward Hirsch was published. As Hirsch writes in the preface, “This book—one person’s work, a poet’s glossary—has grown, as if naturally, out of my lifelong interest in poetry, my curiosity about its vocabulary, its forms and genres, its histories and traditions, its classical, romantic, and modern movements, its various outlying groups, its small devices and large mysteries—how it works.” Each week we will feature a term and its definition from Hirsch’s new book.
riddle: “A mystifying, misleading, or puzzling question posed as a problem to be solved or guessed often as a game” (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary). Though the dictionary definition focuses on the riddle as a question and describes it as a game, the riddle is more than a puzzle. It is both an interrogative and an expressive form, possibly the earliest form of oral literature—a formulation of thought, a mode of association, a metaphor.
In recent years, I’ve found that some of the most compelling and exciting poems I’ve encountered are those by American poets of color, and many of them LGBT. These poets have stepped into an arena of a true democracy of voice, often publishing their first works, sometimes a chapbook of poems, with little known and/or regional presses. Many of these poets want to explore not only gender identity but also the sexual transgressions that make a culture doubly nervous; these concerns are often coupled with issues of race as well. One especially notable, though admittedly high profile, example of this is Eduardo C. Corral’s book, Slow Lightning, selected by Carl Phillips (his own recent poetry a superb example of the sexual transgressions I’m noting) for the 2012 Yale Younger Poets Prize.
Let me now introduce to you another wildly compelling young poet, one who has not yet published a full collection—Saeed Jones. His chapbook, When the Only Light Is Fire, was published in 2011 by
Open Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Some of the poems are short, others long, but they all have long lines.
Long lines are oceanic. They wash over you like waves, one after another, each of them full of shells and sand and fish and surfboards, sometimes pieces of wrecks and the bodies of sailors. The long line is more conclusive and inclusive than the partial, subdivided short line. If short lines are like quick pants, long lines resemble great, deep breathes.
That’s how I present long lines to students at first, as units of breath. I tell them, “Take a deep breath, then as you exhale, make up your line. When you take a new breathe, start a new line.” sometimes the long line will resemble a long sentence; other times it will look like a short paragraph. I try to demonstrate extemporaneously: I take a dramatic deep breath, then try to exhale some words that sound like poetry: “Outside it’s raining and I suspect that the roof is leaking. Oh no! It’s falling on that boy’s head