Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A Few Facts

We're going through our fall submissions to the literary magazine, and having our annual discussions of clarification about what makes poetry poetry and what makes good poetry good.

Here's a quiet little poem by one of my favorite poets, Eamon Grennan, which demonstrates, in its patient, painterly way, how an accumulation of sense-based details can develop a kind of revelatory momentum. It also makes a lot of subtly pleasing moves at the syllable level, inviting the eye and the ear to return, to cycle back, to stay inside a little longer. I like the way Grennan directs our inward eye from one fact to the next, building up his domestic portrait layer upon layer, and the way that the surprises in diction (the rain that "sleeks the street," the "cairn of bulky logs," the "striped napkin in its ring")create their own drama and music.

A Few Facts

The chiming clock. The girl at her desk sneezing.
The hiss of traffic after rain has sleeked the street.
The chime sounding off the silent library air.
Outside, a kind of monumental after-icy-rain
relenting, something loosening and the ground
going soft, glistening, the water on it taking in
the world, the broad sycamore drawing water
up its roots, the huge trunk sopping it. In the room
the vase of Cremone daisies: yellow, white
and flaming orange. Shoes and books, a lit figure
bent to her work, lifting her shoulders slowly
up and looking out, letting a breath go. Smiling
when the child comes in with a question. Outside,
the spreading yellow maple shedding branches. A cairn
of bulky logs. Birds from dawn to dusk at the feeder:
black flashings across the blank window. The cats
dazzled, feeling the old hunger. Now the child
is posing, an arabesque by the stove; now she’s
wrapped in a rug, reading; now she’s sitting up
in bed, a duchess, asking for her cardigan, grinning
at the laden tray—its porridge, milk, tea, striped napkin
in its ring—at light seeping through blue curtains.

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