Wednesday, June 26, 2013
What is a poem?
Only in the rarest of contemporary poetry do I hear that question asked implicitly as the poet goes about his or her way of expression. Poems in which that question moves beneath and through the work, as a form of humility, tradition, wonder, and the imperative to make an excellent thing.
What is a poem? These by Adam Zagajewski:
Those were the long afternoons when poetry left me.
The river flowed patiently, nudging lazy boats to sea.
Long afternoons, the coast of ivory.
Shadows lounged in the streets, haughty manikins in shopfronts
stared at me with bold and hostile eyes.
Professors left their schools with vacant faces,
as if the Iliad had finally done them in.
Evening papers brought disturbing news,
but nothing happened, no one hurried.
There was no one in the windows, you weren’t there;
even nuns seemed ashamed of their lives.
Those were the long afternoons when poetry vanished
and I was left with the city’s opaque demon,
like a poor traveler stranded outside the Gare du Nord
with his bulging suitcase wrapped in twine
and September’s black rain falling.
Oh, tell me how to cure myself of irony, the gaze
that sees but doesn’t penetrate; tell me how to cure myself
translated by Clare Cavanagh
In Strange Towns
And for what it's worth, here's something about Zagajeski:
"Dawn Always Tells Us Something": On the Poetry of Adam Zagajewski