Friday, August 15, 2008

Poetry Friday

I love it when I find a new poet. I invariably do so through the New Yorker, Garrison Keillor or Poetry Friday! I found Matthew Dickman in the Aug. 11 New Yorker (the other poem, by John Ashbury, that week was incomprehensible to me). I was stunned after I read it. I love the way he mixes the cataclysmic with the mundane in the poem and the ending lines...You can read another of his poems Grief here. He's a relatively newcomer to the published poets field and his first full-length collection, All American Poem, won the 2008 American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize in Poetry.

Dickman hails from a white working class suburb of Portland, Oregon. An area he has written about in some of his poems. In November 2007 Major Jackson for the Boston Review described these poems as "melancholic portraits of impoverished white teenagers that dazzle me into the always painful, yet easily forgettable, awareness that many people suffer psychically under the knife of American prosperity. Outside the frame of these poems lurk the children of female-headed homes; parents who work two or more jobs; teenage moms who live in “Drug-Free Zones” and “Urban Renewal Zones,” unkempt neighborhoods whose parks are normally full of drugs; teen addicts slumping toward oblivion; and fathers for whom the closest thing to therapy is domestic abuse."

Dickman has an interesting story. He was a manny for a young boy whose father was dying of brain cancer, a story you can read about here at American Public Media: The Story. I found more of his poems (and advice to writers) on the website From the Fishouse: an audio archive of emerging poets.

Trouble by Matthew Dickman
Marilyn Monroe took all her sleeping pills
to bed when she was thirty-six, and Marlon Brando’s daughter
hung in the Tahitian bedroom
of her mother’s house,
while Stanley Adams shot himself in the head. Sometimes
you can look at the clouds or the trees
and they look nothing like clouds or trees or the sky or the ground.
The performance artist Kathy Change
set herself on fire while Bing Crosby’s sons shot themselves
out of the music industry forever.
I sometimes wonder about the inner lives of polar bears. The French
philosopher Gilles Deleuze jumped
from an apartment window into the world
and then out of it. Peg Entwistle, an actress with no lead
roles, leaped off the “H” in the HOLLYWOOD sign
when everything looked black and white
and David O. Selznick was king, circa 1932. Ernest Hemingway
put a shotgun to his head in Ketchum, Idaho
while his granddaughter, a model and actress, climbed the family tree
and overdosed on phenobarbital. My brother opened
thirteen fentanyl patches and stuck them on his body
until it wasn’t his body anymore. I like
the way geese sound above the river. I like
the little soaps you find in hotel bathrooms because they’re beautiful.
Sarah Kane hanged herself, Harold Pinter
brought her roses when she was still alive,
and Louis Lingg, the German anarchist, lit a cap of dynamite
in his own mouth
though it took six hours for him
to die, 1887. Ludwig II of Bavaria drowned
and so did Hart Crane, John Berryman, and Virginia Woolf. If you are
travelling, you should always bring a book to read, especially
on a train. Andrew Martinez, the nude activist, died
in prison, naked, a bag
around his head, while in 1815 the Polish aristocrat and writer
Jan Potocki shot himself with a silver bullet.
Sara Teasdale swallowed a bottle of blues
after drawing a hot bath,
in which dozens of Roman senators opened their veins beneath the water.
Larry Walters became famous
for flying in a Sears patio chair and forty-five helium-filled
weather balloons. He reached an altitude of 16,000 feet
and then he landed. He was a man who flew.
He shot himself in the heart. In the morning I get out of bed, I brush
my teeth, I wash my face, I get dressed in the clothes I like best.
I want to be good to myself.

Roundup is at Big A little a this week.


Mary Lee said...

The lines in the poem about the living world feel like a gasp of air after holding your breath under water.

MmeT said...

I know. That is what I like most about it.

tanita✿davis said...

Reading this one aloud is hard; just when you feel you have a grip, it turns, and it almost slides from your fingers again...

Beautiful and distressing.

Karen Edmisten said...

Mary lee, your comment is perfect. This reminds me a time, many years ago, when a suicidal friend of mine was told by a psychiatrist that he needed to "stop feeling so much" ... at the time I was appalled by the advice. How could one look on all the misery in the world and not feel the urge or the need to join it somehow? At the time, I shared both my friend's empathy and his depression. But, in retrospect, with 30 years behind us, I think that what the pscyh. was trying to say was that my friend couldn't define himself by the misery around him. He had to look for those gasps of air in order to survive. It's much more complex than that, of course, but this is, after all, a comment box. :-)

This poem brings up so many contradictory feelings -- the desire to reach into the misery, and the desire to flee from it. Really interesting.