Poems well composed haunt readers. Like an old injury, they return with an ache during inclimate weather. It is April. Yet snow covered the ground earlier this week. Along edges of many fields near Whitewater, small mounds of unmelted snow still remained.
It is National Poetry Month. Like the season, it is time to celebrate in spite of the frosty conditions.
An open mic I visited this week featured one young poet amid a variety of singer songwriters. The poem shared was morose, hurried and full of mixed metaphors. Nothing wrong with that. I dare say a lot of my early work resided in that landscape. I hope to hear more of her work.
A prominent poetry publication arrived in the mail a couple weeks ago. I read nearly midway through the publication searching for a memorable line or image. Nothing. A lot of doleful activism and academic rubric. Maybe it was the reader’s fault. Maybe after more rest I will pick up the publication, reread the poems and find something notable.
This weekend, while rearranging a bookshelf I noticed a stack of books, newspapers and magazines. Included were old issues of The New York Times, books of poetry translations, a couple American poetry books and a copy of the May 2011 edition of Poetry magazine.
The publication featured a Dana Gioia poem with a haunting opening line “So this is where the children come to die, . . .” How can you not keep reading this poem? It is so good. In the second part of the poem, the speaker reflected, “I’d lost one child/and couldn’t bear to watch another die” and ended that part of the poem with “But there are poems we do not choose to write.” From the first line of the first part of the poem to the last line of the third part, the poem “Special Treatments Ward” was exceptional.
A poem that possesses a reader like Dana Gioia’s poem “Special Treatments Ward” will survive long after the April snow has melted.