Archive for the ‘Jason’ 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).

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.

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.

Big Doors

Monday, September 11th, 2006

I have seen with my own eyes doors so massive
that two men would have been required
to push open just one of them.
Bronze, grating over stone sills, or made of wood
from trees now nearly extinct.

Many things never to be seen again!
The fury of cavalry attacking at full gallop.
Little clouds of steam rising
from horse droppings
on most of the world’s streets once.

Rooms amber with lamplight
perched above those streets.
Pilgrimage routes smoky with torchlight
from barony to principality through forests
that stood as a dark uncut authority.

A story that begins “Once upon a time.”
Messengers, brigands, heralds
in a world unmapped from village to village.
Legends and dark misinformation,
graveyards crowded with ghosts.

And when the rider from that story at last arrives,
gates open at midnight to receive him.
Two men, two men we will never know,
lean into the effort of
pushing open each big door.

Richard Tillinghast

The first line, that insistance that he saw it with his own eyes, protests too much, to me, and as we go on, it seems less likely. And yet I know what he means… I’ve seen these things too. The beautiful, dramatic past, that might never have existed. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived in it. Many of us have.

Beautiful poem. No one thinks of the door openers.