Poetry Friday: “Advent” by Bruce Bond

Gerard van Honthorst Adoration of the Shepherds via wikimedia public domainI’ve heard many people say we’ve never needed poetry more than we do now, but “Advent,” by Bruce Bond, reminds me that poetry has always been vital. The poem begins with a bombing in the Yellow Sea and smoke so thick “you cannot  see your hands,” which sets the reader up for a domino effect of disorientation. This disorientation is reinforced by clever line breaks and images that seem to lean into one another—the earth’s tilt on its axis becomes a man lost in thought, folks sleepily sitting by the fire become “cows in the crèche,” yesterday becomes tomorrow: “the farther back you go/the more it dims into a future.” A holy day becomes ordinary: “so long past / it could have been most any season.” Another dimension of this disorientation comes from lines that seem to have been written just yesterday, although the poem was published five years ago. Consider: “talk that turns bitter as it grows more national in scope.” When the swirling, otherworldly tone of the poem introduces images of Advent (“A child is born / crowned in blood”), the reader encounters an Advent story more frightening and more alluring than the one usually on display in this month of ubiquitous manger scenes. “Advent” highlights the strange beauty of this season, and reminds us that we have always, and will always, need poetry—to shake the dust off our stories and help beauty “bloom through the wound.”

—Christina Lee

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Saying Yes to the Annunciation

annunciazione-by-fabrizio-boschi-on-wikimediaOf all the Gospel episodes, the Annunciation has long been one of the favorites of poets. The scene is unique and literally earth-shaking: Gabriel’s sudden appearance to the girl Mary, his announcement that she will bear a son who will be “the Son of the Most High,” her puzzlement (“How can this be, since I am a virgin?”), and her final yes—“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.” [Read more…]

Poetry Friday: “Plowboy’s Bible” by Austin Segrest

Twin Chairs in Barn by Amy on flickrWhen I read Austin Segrest’s “Plowboy’s Bible,” I began to realize that the entire poem was made up of nothing more than a series of phrases. The phrases veered wildly between images and concepts that were relatively intelligible to exotic, almost surreal metaphors. Slowly it dawned on me that I had read a poem like this before. Certain words and rhythms in Segrest’s poem triggered my memory and I suddenly realized that this was an homage/adaptation of the Metaphysical poet George Herbert’s famous sonnet “Prayer.” In Herbert’s poem the basic conceit is that it is almost impossible to truly define prayer. So the poet strives to draw us in to the mystery using both clarity and more oblique methods. He places a phrase like “heart in pilgrimage” next to something strange, like “angels age” or “engine against th’Almighty” (i.e., like a siege-engine or catapult for bombarding a city). “Plowboy’s Bible” is both an homage and a parallel: it takes on the mystery of scripture. In Segrest’s poem the holy text is “a pig-chewed engine of splendor and dispute” but also “fishy contraband, rendered law.” I took the liberty of asking the poet about the origin of the poem and he spoke of researching his Puritan forebears. It was William Tyndale, one of the first translators of the Bible into English, who once told a priest: “I will cause the boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures than thou dost!” So we have the paradox of scripture which is now in our own tongue but yet remains opaque and controversial in many ways. And in the process of suggesting all this, Segrest has offered a salute to one of the great Christian poets in our tradition.

—Gregory Wolfe [Read more…]

Twitter #Micropoetry

CC zero licenseTootling around on Twitter, I’ve come upon a delightful community of poets. Their hashtag is #micropoetry. What these writers have realized is that Twitter’s restriction of 140 characters can be a stimulating challenge to finding just the right words to express concisely an impression, an experience, a thought.

Much micropoetry on Twitter seems to be images from the natural world. While many of these poems are clichéd, some have a freshness. Here are three, from different tweeters:

arsonist flowers / trying to set / balconies alight

March visiting June / laughing at her sister’s blooms / she knifes her with cold

The clouds descend on the hill / and brush the swings in the park / into movement / phantom wind child / swinging its legs / into the sky

The second most popular category seems to be love poems. Alas, most are sentimental. But I do like this one: [Read more…]

The Best Words: Selections from the Sex Tapes of Tremendous Male Poets

flowerssmallI knew a woman, lovely in her bones,
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;
Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:
The shapes a bright container can contain!
   —Theodore Roethke, “I Knew a Woman

I know a woman who feels injustice in her lungs. A therapist, all day she catches others’ damage and offers it back to them as healing. Now I see her grow tense, ball her fists, seek something to strike while an abusive man asks an entire nation to hate with him. [Read more…]