The last poem (until these) I sought out was Pale Fire, which was a piece of huge metafiction, so it wasn't just a poem but a dissertation of a poem, a chase adventure, a gay romp through imaginary kingdoms, an exploration of envy and a man's mentality breaking down, and just a fascination with the written word. And the poem in that book might not have been all the important to the actual understanding of the book, you know?
Anyway, in class we read "Emergency" from Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son collection, which I read wrong the first time I read it (I didn't know if I should read them as a series of short stories or as a mix-up novel) and I was speaking to the professor about Johnson just in general, because it appears I'm the only one who's read other books by the guy. He told me the guy started off as a poet, which is why you get some fantastic lines in the prose (just because you're a poet initially doesn't suggest that's the only way to write fantastic lines of prose; look at: John Crowley, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Cormac McCarthy; we could go on), and suggested I look at The Incognito Lounge.
Which is a strangely compelling collection. Look at these:
I passed a helicopter
crashed in the street today,
where stunned and suddenly grief-torn
passers-by tried to explain
over and over, a hundred ways, what
had happened. Some cried over the pilot,
others stole money from his wallet --
I heard the one responsible for his death
claiming the pilot didn't need it any more,
and whether he spoke of the pilot's
money or his life wasn't clear.
The scene had a subaqueous timbre
that I recognize now as a light
that shines in in the dreams I have when I sleep
on my back and wake up half-drowned.
However I tried to circumnavigate
the circus of fire and mourning --
the machine burst ajar like a bug,
the corpse a lunch pail
left open and silly music coming out --
I couldn't seem to find a way
that didn't lead straight to the heart of the trouble
and involve me forever in their grief.
THE INCOGNITO LOUNGE (final stanza)
Every bus ride is like this one,
in the back the same two uniformed boy scouts
de-pansting a little girl, up front
the woman whose mission is to tell the driver
over and over to shut up.
Maybe you permit yourself to find
it beautiful on the bus as it wafts
like a dirigible toward suburbia
over a continent of salons,
over the robot desert that now turns
purple and comes slowly through the dust.
This is the moment you'll seek
the words for over the imitation
and actual wood of successive
when you watched a baby child
catch a bee against the tinted glass
and were married to a deep
comprehension and terror.
The other day I was at my show and just looking up stuff about Wilco. Jeff Tweedy in particular and much to my surprise, turns out the guy wrote a book of poems and, further to my surprise, our library carried it (Morgan Library is the best library in the world; maybe not but it's the best I've ever had a membership with). I grabbed it and read it and liked it, a little dismayed at first because the poems sometimes felt that they needed that musical arrangement to really beef them up (there's this guy who said that the people who would be poets in the '60s became rock musicians, i.e. John Lennon, Bob Dylan) but then I stumbled over this really fantastic one:
ANOTHER GREAT THING
the best way
to fell your blood
is to lie
tell bold ties
lying won't help at all
you pick the right people
people who know
how to write and lie
o, and then the blood will pound
it won't at all
Now, I've written song lyrics and yes I think that they can be poetic or whatever (look at Cloud Cult: "You can take it in stride/Or you can take it right between the eyes/Suck up/Suck up/Take your medicine"; "I shook hands with a man who honestly thought he was the Grandson of Jesus with a penchant for pinchies/He served us communion of cola and twinkies") but I also thinks there's a different rhythm that poetry in the epic general and song lyrics fall on and often times you get these really fantastic lines that are just missing something without that musical arrangement. And the Tweedy book kind of goes in and out of those kind of things.
So there's been the extent of my poetry reading lately and chances are I'm not going to really look for a lot more since I have some Flannery O'Connor, Cormac McCarthy, John Crowley, Roberto Bolano, E. L. Doctorow, David Foster Wallace, Denis Johnson, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Tim O'Brien, Steven Millhauser, William Shakespeare, Oakley Hall, Thomas Pynchon, Zadie Smith, Chris Adrian, Doris Lessing, Herman Melville, Richard Adams, Michael Chabon, and Christ knows how many more left to read.