Dan Albergotti’s poem “Bad Language” drew me in with its first line, “We fear to speak, and silence coats the night air.” I love when writers use such phrases. They are immediately effective because I can relate to what the speaker is saying. I have experienced such a silence, one that I become drenched in, enveloped, encased.
I love the vulnerability the speaker reveals: “Don’t leave me alone with self- / knowledge.” I often feel the same way. I think often writers cannot express their feelings except in writing, but even in writing we experience insecurity when others read what we have to say. How then can we tell others our desires? “Understand me,” the speaker says. Is this is a plea or a demand? With the complications of language the speaker illustrates, I like to think it is both.
From the Fishouse is divided into ten different section which range from eulogies to poems that focus on wordplay. I was drawn in by the section titled “Spangling the Sea: Poems with Convincing Consonance and Chimes of Internal Rhyme.” I wanted to look at poems that more obviously focused on their language use, and picking one from this section seemed like the best bet. I read All Effect by Anthony Deaton. What drew me in at first was his use of the words season and reason. He used kept pairing the word reason with the word this. When I read these words out loud I kept hearing the word “season” buried within the words “this reason.” I thought that was very clever of the poet to be able to use a word three times while only writing it once. He also showed obvious attention to consonants with lines like “written hectic and sky-bitten” and “missiles with shrill flushing / whistles that overbrim.” I also thought his lack of punctuation (he only used one period and one hyphen) was also interesting, but I’m not sure why that stuck out to me. Overall, I thought this poem was very clever and used language/letters in a very careful and thoughtful way.
I didn’t have the book for this week, luckily there’s a website that has most of the poems from the book. Upon browsing this selection of poems I decided the 5 O’Clock Poem by Jennifer K. Sweeney is one of the poems which is most attractive to me. I don’t want to say favorite, because lately I’ve been questioning much about what it means to like or favorite something, and the reasons behind why I like some things vs. others. I use the word attractive because after reading multiple poems once, this poem is quite literally the one that I was attracted to without any analysis or reflection. The truth is I don’t know why I like this specific poem. Is it because it’s easier for me to comprehend than other poems? Because this specific poet appeals to my style of understanding and writing than others? Or is it because she used specific strategies to get me to like her poetry? There are some vague ideas I have about why I like it. The language is simple, there is an abstract idea about going against “the current”, eventually giving up and giving into “the current”, which I relate to and which I have been struggling with as of late. And then there’s the language and the imagery of walking down a street, gray and bent; getting on a train; a salmon in a shallow stream. But there’s much more to this appeal which I’m not aware of. I’m sure this appeal has to do with composition, sound, organization, the break in lines and the choosing of words– the poem is beautiful because the poet made it so. I’m thinking now that maybe all these thoughts are good thoughts to enter this workshop with, considering that maybe by the end of it I’ll be able to know more about certain poems appeal to me and in certain respects, know more about my likes and dislikes and where they come from.
I have this thing for syllables. The first thing I do when I read a poem is count the syllables of each line. I enjoy a poem that has the same amount of syllables in each line. Christian Barter does not do this. What he actually does, and what kept me reading, is that he gives you two lines with thirteen syllables, then he gives you two lines with eleven syllables. Then he gives you a line with eight syllables. Christian Barter sets you up for a pattern, of syllables, and then destroys the pattern and starts a new one. But then he goes back to the original pattern of syllables. The effect that I get from this is a sense of being distracted. The person in the poem wakes up with the hope of writing a poem but seems to get distracted by the radio. The person hears Bernstein’s drifting violin. Am I like the person in the poem? Have I started to hear the syllables like the person has started to hear Bernstein? Because of this the poem starts to become less of a poem and more of an experience with sound and the movement of my lips and tongue.