Thursday, July 9, 2020

Poetry on Thursday

Quite a few people have commented that they are " not poetry people" or that they "just don't understand poetry" and I'd like to talk about that a little bit. I never thought of myself as a poetry person, and I'll let you in on a secret, there is plenty of poetry that I don't get. I don't understand what the author is trying to say, the language sounds odd in my ears and feels strange in my mouth, and sometimes I feel dumb and wonder what I'm missing. 

Here is a poem that I should understand but I just don't get it (and it pains me greatly to admit it). The author is my nephew Tim Scott who majored in creative writing at The College of Santa Fe and has published two volumes of poetry. Tim is a lovely, thoughtful, quirky, creative person, and fantastic father, but I don't know what an endocrine block is, nor hypothermic blues. I do know that Uncle Jim and Harry Cat are both gone, but as much as I've puzzled over his poems, I don't think they were written for me. 

Tim Scott

This is how it begins:
by banging and shivering the halls
in the house at the endocrine block,
paths tramped by Uncle Jim and Harry Cat,
the moldering barracks out back,
mazed with towers standing and towers toppled
of ledgers, yearbooks, manuscripts,
wholly wrenched and creaking in the wind
like a galleon's ribbed timbers,
rigged to breathe, rigged to run the hypothermic blues,
with Mike clutching our story folder,
back of the line, concession stand at the town pool,
pale and waterlogged, rivulet-headed
leashed by the eyes to Cara Abernathy's one-piece,
trying not to grind my teeth in the cold, because this is how it ends:
shadows stringbeaning in the afternoon,
when defeated was only something I thought I could be.

Scott, Tim. "Foreshadow". Our Lady of Perpetual Motion, America Star Books, 2012

With the pandemic, Kym's sharing of poetry, reading a lot more poetry on my own, and discovering a real respite in poems during this time, I've found that there is a lot of poetry that I do get. That makes me say "yes, that's just how I feel" or even "I didn't know I felt that way, but that poet deftly captured my feelings with their words". Here is a poem that makes me say those things.

Good Bones 
Maggie Smith

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

Smith, Maggie. "Good Bones". Waxwing, 2016.

So relax and don't worry about whether you are a poetry person or not. I bet that someday
you'll read a poem, it will speak to you and just maybe begin to turn you into a poetry
person. And if not, no worries! 


  1. I'm one of those people who always comment and say that I never understand poetry and feel like a fraud while reading it, but I LOVE THAT MAGGIE SMITH POEM. Thank you :)

    1. It's interesting how poetry can make many people uncomfortable, but also help us to feel and better understand those feelings.

  2. I'll admit that even as someone who used to write a lot of poetry (way back in my teenage years), there's a lot of poetry that's over my head. I may not understand it, but there's something about the feelings it creates that's unlike any other form of writing. Thank you for sharing your nephew's poem. I have a feeling a lot of it has meaning only to him, but not understanding the meaning of everything in it doesn't keep me from appreciating the language, the imagery, the feeling it evokes.

  3. Wow. You guys keep this up and I might even be shopping for a poetry book of my own... Thank you!

  4. Nice choices Bonny! Like Sarah, I don't understand your nephew's poem, but the language is so wonderful. And Maggie Smith's poem is a gem for sure! Thank you for sharing.

  5. What a great idea to share two poems to illustrate that poetry works for everyone in some way. Maggie Smith is amazing and your nephew is very talented as well.

  6. That's the whole thing, right there, Bonny. Finding the poetry that says what you can't find the words to say and that feeds your soul. There is poetry for everyone and it's worth the time to find. I quite like your nephews poem. I think I understand what he's trying to say.

  7. Or better yet...I think I understand WHAT he said.

  8. What Vicki said! I got a feel from your nephews poem. Not sure I'm right but! Thanks Bonny!

  9. I think a lot of poetry requires introspection and mental effort and that turns people off. I am like you, some of it I like, some not so much. But if it speaks to you, your experience, and your feelings, it's unlike any other experience. Thanks for the poem, Bonny!

  10. Bonny: Any decent realtor?? What a great poetic line!

  11. what a wonderful lesson, Bonny, thank you! and I really did enjoy that second poem, too!

  12. You make a very good point. There is a lot of poetry I don't understand but just as much accessible poetry that I love. The second poem here was wonderful, just the kind I enjoy.

  13. The older I get the more I appreciate poetry. I loved the second poem, I follow her on twitter and she is a wonderful uplifting person!

  14. Poetry . . . like all art . . . is meant to be experienced. You get what you get, you recognize what you recognize, you see what you see. Sometimes it speaks to us, and sometimes it doesn't. And that's okay. Unfortunately, so many of us were "taught" that poetry is to be "understood" a certain way. But who's to say??? Certainly not my 8th grade English teacher who seemed to think every line had a meaning we needed to unlock . . . in lockstep. (Thank goodness I had earlier teachers who taught me to love poetry.) Anyway. I think your nephew's poem is beautiful, although I don't know what it means. Maggie Smith is one of my favorites! (But I think you know that already.) XO

  15. I echo those who said that not understanding does not diminish the beauty of the words. And sometimes that is enough! (I love that Maggie Smith poem AND your nephew's poem is beautiful!)


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