Today I read a review of Alicia Stallings new book of poems, This Afterlife, by David Orr, in which he mentions: The main thing Stallings has going for her is that she’s good at writing poems. She is!. I reviewed her book LIKE for ZYZZYVA a few years ago. She often uses form, meter, rhyme, as in this unusual sonnet. I don’t know if this is in the new book, I’ve ordered it, but it hasn’t arrived yet.
“Not gulls, girls.” You frown, and you insist—
Between two languages, you work at words
(R’s and L’s, it’s hard to get them right.)
We watch the heavens’ flotsam: garbage-white
Above the island dump (just out of sight),
Dirty, common, greedy—only birds. OK, I acquiesce, too tired to banter.
Somehow they’re not the same, though. See, they rise
As though we glimpsed them through a torn disguise—
Spellbound maidens, wild in flight, forsaken—
Some metamorphosis that Ovid missed,
With their pale breasts, their almost human cries.
So maybe it is I who am mistaken;
But you have changed them. You are the enchanter.
In case you think that formal poetry is over, A. E. Stallings is able to write poems on contemporary themes using form and rhyme. To wit, a sonnet about bedbugs. Or is it?
Bedbugs in Marriage Bed
Maybe it’s best to burn the whole thing down,
The framework with its secret joineries.
Every morning, check the sheets for blood
As though for tiny lost virginities,
Or murder itself distilled into a drop.
It might take lighter fluid to make it stop:
Maybe it’s best to just give up and move.
Every morning, check the seem of seams. Continue reading “Poems with rhyme and meter”→
Troy Jollimore used this poem by A. E. Stallings to illustrate what the modern sonnet can do. Even though the lines are short, and the “turn” comes at line three, it does seem like a sonnet:
Fire Safety Drill
It ought to be easy to learn:
Freeze, drop where you stand,
And roll yourself in a rug;
But acting as you’ve planned
When the glib tongue licks your hair
Or rubbles up your sleeve
Is difficult—the tug
Of heat unravels thought—
And all that you were taught
Comes brilliantly undone.
And in the moment’s flare
Somehow you believe
That it can be outrun,
And you’ve got time to burn.
I went to a poetry reading at the incomparable University Press Books bookstore (support it!) this weekend, and the subject of accessibility came up. One reader, Rebecca Foust, mentioned that her mother, who never went further than high school, memorized and loved Robert Frost’s poems. Though his poems, to a poet, are layered and complex, Rebecca said her mother went to them for simple comfort.
This is very hard to achieve today, when we have largely shed form, and the adjective “accessible” often denigrates a poem. But here’s a great example of a layered, accessible contemporary poem by A.E. Stallings that includes rhyme, poetic and prosaic allusions, and humor:
Musicfor a new parent
The music that your son will listen to
To drive you mad
Has yet to be invented. Be assured
However, it is approaching from afar
Like the light of some Chaldean star. Continue reading “Contemporary poetry”→