Archive for the ‘Group 1’ Category

By Accident

Sunday, November 5th, 2006

First she gave me the wound by accident.
Then the tourniquet she tied unwound by accident.

Your friend may want to start running.
I gave his scent to the hounds by accident.

Balloons on the mailbox, ambulance in the driveway.
Bobbing for apples I drowned by accident.

Did someone tell the devil we were building Eden?
Or did he slither on the grounds by accident?

I said some crazy things, but I swear, officer,
I burned her place down by accident.

Only surfaces interest me.
What depths I sound I sound by accident.

“What should we look for in a ghazal, Amit?”
Inevitabilities found by accident.

Amit Majmudar
Antioch Review
Special Issue: Memoirs True and False
Fall 2006


This is my first poem posted that was actually the poem of the day, rather than from the archives.  Ghazal, I had to look up.  Here is the definition:

n. [Ar. ghazal.] A kind of Oriental lyric, and usually erotic, poetry, written in recurring rhymes.

This tells me that someone (a student?) was asking the author what to look for in a poem, and the part about recurring themes clearly helps explain the repetition of “by accident” (as if poetry needs justification!).  To my taste, this repetition is right on the edge; I like it, but I’m quite close to thinking it’s too much.

 Amit (as the poet names himself in the poem, I have the unique luxury of conflating speaker with author without risk) seems to be giving examples from various different scenarios, each compelling, each poetic in their terse power, rather than forming a full narrative.  I enjoy the technique.  The various examples sometimes seem like real accidents and sometimes are obviously not.

 I don’t understand the idea of inevitability here.  Equating an accident with something inevitable is certainly very ironic and interesting, but I don’t see the poem as proving or exploring this directly.  It is the sort of poem I wish I could speak to the author of.

Representative Poetry Online

Friday, November 3rd, 2006

I thought this would be a good place to share my favorite poetry site with some like-minded individuals.  The RPO site has a large collection of major English-speaking poets from many eras.  As it stands on canon, there are fewer present-day poets than might be desired by some, but there is no real use in expecting any one site to have everything.

 The collection, after all, is large enough that no one could can feasibly read through it all.  A function I enjoy greatly is the random poem button.  You can press it, and it will keep refreshing with a random poem, which I skim briefly, see if it looks promising to me, then move on.  I’ve collected a number of poems I like a lot this way, even if it is fair to say that I’ve unfairly skipped a lot of poems that way as well.

 I’ll link one such poem here.


A Marriage Must Be Worked At

Monday, October 30th, 2006

Newlyweds on the honeymoon trip,
they are trying to get
from one set of ruins to the next.
There were no double berths.
He took the top.
Now they are three feet apart.
Neither sleeping.

They are perfectly still,
hurtling over the landscape.

Michael Chitwood
Number 68
Fall 2005
A lot of times, a poem is ambiguous because it lacks narrative.  Here, we see an ambiguity from a narrative out of context.  We are told everything the couple does and where they are, but their feeling are opaque to us.  The title because extremely important, offering us a hint as to what this forced distance might mean.  Do they feel awkward, because they were having troubles anyway, and are forced to do what angry couples often do by choice (sleep apart)?

Their lack of motion against a moving landscape highlights a sense of wrongness, to me.  A poem can have a haiku-like efficiency and mystery without using the Japanese form.


Saturday, October 14th, 2006

This poem bases itself on an odd premise from Euripides that I was unfamilar with until now; Helen never went to Troy at all, but instead the goddess Aphrodite replaced her with an illusion (an eidolon, or phantom).

 What is painfully absent from this poem is how Helen feels about this.  She is the speaker, but she recounts dryly things she did not do and feel.  I think we are to understand that she feels some regret that these dramatic and world-changing things never happened to her, but it is ambiguous.  I admire this poem a lot; the lack of emotional contact compels me to fill in blanks and ask questions, as well as giving the poem a certain air of austerity that seems appropriate to classical antiquity (though it was of course written much later).

A Poem about Frat Girls

Thursday, October 12th, 2006

This is a poem I wrote about frat girls, the ones who you always see at the frat parties on other campuses and this campus. I wanted it to be funny, but somehow it just ended up making me sad and almost pitying them, but here goes:

Nights on Stupid                        by Richard Vasquez




As they go hand in hand,

giddy and carefree with their purses engorged with

loose cash,

flavored, ribbed, glow-in-the-dark condoms,

credit cards, fake IDs that say they are 25 and from East Lansing,

makeup from Sephora,

birth control pills, and sparkly lip-gloss.

This is an old mission, the same as every

other weekend.  Perhaps play some Beirut, get some numbers,

generally forget about any sort of manners or

moral upbringing.

An elitism that

gets written about too little

these days

is imbedded in the psyche of

every made-up trollop.  It doesn’t matter

whether each is rich or destitute,

pretty or putrid,

a vestal or a vacancy.

In the recesses of each mind

is a goddess persona, put on this earth

for the sheer purpose of being a bimbo who

thinks she is something sacred to behold


Which one carries the camera tonight?

How many

will she take of herself holding the camera away from her

face?  How many will be of her

friend chugging cheap sweaty beer with one of the frat guys?

Will their eyes be able to decipher the visions

between the agglutination of caked-on make-up?  Will the drunken

swaying of their young bodies somehow

make them feel they are the womanly wonders

of the world?


Will they ever get a clue

or will they continue being cliché?


The Dissident Student

Thursday, October 12th, 2006

For years he listens to me
Like the trees listen to the seasons.
With me he crossed the current
To the fountain . . . He never lets me rest, even during my siesta,
Dictating into my tired mouth the most confusing gibberish.
Yet always mindful, as if he was holding back.

One day in my old age, he, blue like a diamond, bursts onto me
Strips off my turban,
Throws my ink and my tattered papers into my face,
And takes off as if for a rendezvous with fate.

For years people never stopped visiting
To console me. I used to indulge them
Without any conviction.
For even now, ever since he destroyed my isolated perch
And left,
I see in his footprints
A path for wisdom beyond my inkpot and my paper.

I don’t know what this poem is supposed to symbolize.  The best I could guess was a storm or some sort of natural occurence.  The most interesting part is the title, dissident student.  The footprints indicate that an actual person existed but its still difficult to tell.  Him being “blue like a diamond” confuses me, because I do not usually see diamonds as blue.


Monday, October 2nd, 2006

by Victoria Redel

Tell me it’s wrong the scarlet nails my son sports or the toy
store rings he clusters four jewels to each finger.

He’s bedecked. I see the other mothers looking at the star
choker, the rhinestone strand he fastens over a sock.
Sometimes I help him find sparkle clip-ons when he says
sticker earrings look too fake.

Tell me I should teach him it’s wrong to love the glitter that a
boy’s only a boy who’d love a truck with a remote that revs,
battery slamming into corners or Hot Wheels loop-de-looping
off tracks into the tub.

Then tell me it’s fine – really – maybe even a good thing – a boy
who’s got some girl to him,
and I’m right for the days he wears a pink shirt on the seesaw in
the park.

Tell me what you need to tell me but keep far away from my son
who still loves a beautiful thing not for what it means –
this way or that – but for the way facets set off prisms and
prisms spin up everywhere
and from his own jeweled body he’s cast rainbows – made every
shining true color.

Now try to tell me – man or woman – your heart was ever once
that brave.

I’m not entirely sure about all of her line breaks, or her choices to make some lines run together, but it occurs to me that the structure of her poem is almost like the facets she writes about – a little fractured, a little distorted, but sparkling and lovely all the same. I love the idea that “he’s bedecked.” It carries so many connotations: luxury, extravagance, even something (like prejudice or stereotypes) that’s put upon one. And I love the last line. Maybe I’m sappy, but it gave me chills.

What the Gravedigger Needs

Saturday, September 30th, 2006

Teuva, Finland


rubber boots

leather gloves

iron spear to loosen up the frozen ground



length of rope

board to prevent mourners falling in

bicycle to go from grave to grave

Rachel Loden
New American Writing
Number 24, 2006


Is a list a poem?  This poem makes it hard to argue otherwise.  The items are well chosen, the list brief and pointed and powerful.  Some have obvious uses, and are left undescribed, some you fill in by yourself (rope to lower the coffin in) and others are described for you, but in terms simple and short enough that they compel imagination anyway.  This poem was a real gem, to me.  I can tell partly because now I want to imitate it.

From VerseDaily

Sunday, September 24th, 2006

How Long Do You Think the Human Race Will Exist?

I don’t worry much about humanity,
my wife replies. I think that we’ll evolve.
Ecclesiastes tells me all is vanity,

that nothing new will happen for eternity,
and yet. . .I think we’re starting to dissolve.
I don’t worry—much. About humanity:

what will be lost, if we’re lost? Not infinity.
What now revolves around us will revolve.
Ecclesiastes tells me all is vanity:

one person saves a mint, one saves a manatee,
ho-hum go on—do something, get involved,
don’t worry much about humanity,

decide upon some charity, a sanity.
But there are sweet things: sex, worship, resolve. . .
Ecclesiastes tells me all is vanity.

Science predicts that bees or giant ants will be
Earth’s next bigwigs. No egos, none to solve
for “I.” Don’t worry much about humanity,
Ecclesiastes tells me. All is vanity.

While I liked the poem’s subject, I don’t much like the line repetition (not much a Dylan Thomas fan for that reason either). I think that so much more can be said with new lines and that the reptition may have some point in structure it has never done much for me.

9/9, Thinking of My Brothers East of the Mountains

Friday, September 22nd, 2006

Each year on this auspicious day, alone and foreign
here in a foreign place, my thoughts of you sharpen:

far away, I can almost see you reaching the summit,
dogwood berries woven into sashes, short one person.

-Wang Wei

Translated by David Hinton

I’ve always been a person who likes short poetry, and short poetry has always found a welcome home in Asia, it seems. The longer a poem gets, the more I can’t help but wonder why it’s a poem at all, rather than prose. Economy is crucial, to me.

The language here is very simple, but telling. Sharpening a thought can mean that it’s more clear, but it can also mean that it is now more able to cut. I think both meanings are intended, here.

The note explains that it is a ritual, on the ninth day of the ninth month, to go up the mountain and sip wine. His absence is felt more keenly during a broken habit, a feeling I know well enough.