Thursday, January 15, 2009

Poetry Class!




This time by Franz Wright, taken from the latest issue of the New Yorker (as, somewhere out there, John Cotter no doubt heaves a heavy sigh ...):

LEARNING TO READ

If I had to look up every fifth of sixth word,
so what. I looked them up.
I had nowhere important to be.

My father was unavailable, and my mother
looked like she was about to break,
and not into blossom, every time I spoke.

My favorite was the Iliad. True,
I had trouble pronouncing the names,
but when was I going to pronounce them, and

to whom?
My stepfather maybe?
Number one, he could barely speak English;

two, he had sufficient intent
to smirk and knock me down
without any prompting from me.

Loneliness, boredom and terror
my motivation
fiercely fuelled.

I get down on my knees and thank God for them.

Du Fu, the Psalms, Whitman, Rilke.
Life has taught me
to understand books.

6 comments:

Sam said...

I think this is a rather sweet poem, but as with so so so so much stuff I read in periodicals and elsewhere, I wonder if the line breaks aren't completely arbitrary--just there to make the thing LOOK poem-y. There's definitely a mellifluousness to these verses, I can hear that, but still, is there any actual stanzic order to it? Is there any reason isn't shouldn't look like this:

If I had to look up every fifth of sixth word, so what. I looked them up. I had nowhere important to be. My father was unavailable, and my mother looked like she was about to break, and not into blossom, every time I spoke.

My favorite was the Iliad. True, I had trouble pronouncing the names, but when was I going to pronounce them, and to whom? My stepfather maybe? Number one, he could barely speak English; two, he had sufficient intent to smirk and knock me down without any prompting from me.

Loneliness, boredom and terror
my motivation fiercely fuelled. I get down on my knees and thank God for them. Du Fu, the Psalms, Whitman, Rilke. Life has taught me
to understand books.

julesrules3114 said...

I think Sam just blew my mind...

Kevin said...

I like to read the poem while playing a soothing loop of John Cotter's sighs in my mind, like wind rustling through the leaves, or waves breaking on the shore.

steve said...

He IS sighing somewhere, I'm sure, while all this poetical speculation is going on ... a chapbook on 'Miami Vice'! I'd never have thought of it in a million years, and yet I see the quirky appeal of it ...

Greg said...

So Steve, where's your obit on Ricardo Montalban?

Anonymous said...

Your poor dead ears. FW