In the past, poems often told a story. There are great narrative poems like the Odyssey or Beowulf, and many shorter examples up through the 1900s. But in the world of contemporary poetry, narrative is rare. Philip Levine’s work sometimes tells a story, I can think of a few poems of Ed Hirsch, and the famous poem “The Shirt,” by Robert Pinsky. You can probably think of others. But most of what we call poetry now is lyric verse, an image, an impression, a feeling, a puzzling through the complexities of daily life.
Perhaps this is why this extraordinary poem by Brigit Pegeen Kelley that appears just to tell a story is so powerful. I say “appears” because this may be real or may not, but in either case is enhanced by the language of the telling: