In praise of bad poems

MatthewsBW2After finding my childhood diary, I’ve been thinking about the huge numbers of bad poems one must be willing to write to arrive at a few good ones. Even the best poets seem to have to publish a lot of mediocre work and, I’m sure, throw away a lot more to achieve a few dozen gems. While I was thinking about this, I stumbled on this poem by William Matthews that at least partially addresses this very point.

Mingus at the Showplace

I was miserable, of course, for I was seventeen,
and so I swung into action and wrote a poem, Continue reading “In praise of bad poems”

A new poem

For my morning reading, last time I was at the Albany Library I gathered up a handful of poetry anthologies. I thought I should just look at some new poems, even braced as I am against new poets. I was pleasantly surprised  by the first poem in the book, by Meg Kearney, someone I’d never read.

Nature Poetry

for William Matthews

Bill hated the separation implied by the term.
“What’s this?” he’d ask, gesturing to what lay
beyond our classroom window. From “NAC” 6-303
in Harlem. Manhattan blinked an glowed like
the floor of stalagmite, lit by its own desire
to exist. What was it? Concrete, glass, steel–
meaning limestone, silica, gypsum, sand,
manganese, sodium, sulfur, ore–
anything unnatural here? Here, in the city, we
steel ourselves against the elements–steel,
from the Old High German stak, “to resist”–
and we fight like the animals we are for our
own little plot of privacy amidst all this
concrete (from the Latin, concret-us, past-
participle of con-crescere “to grow together”).
We’re too much together, and all the while we
go around like Adam and put a name to things,
just to say this is real, I exist in the world.
So we say “boulevard,” “taxi,” “skyscraper,” “villain”–
which used to mean you worked on a farm, but now
means you better have eyes in the back of your
head walking down the boulevard. “Be careful
going home,” Bill would say at the end of class. “It’s
a jungle out there.” Yes, we’d agree. Naturally.

Meg Kearney

Continue reading “A new poem”