My April-is-the-cruelest-National-Poetry-Month commitment is to write each day about a contemporary poet I admire…Blew it on day one. I fell asleep after deciding to lay down for a second between folding the laundry and putting it away. Today I’ve developed a better strategy: write my blogpost before doing any domestic chores. The guilt factor of falling asleep before the dinner dishes are washed isn’t as intense.
So in the spirit of making April a little less cruel, I’m going to cut myself some slack if I miss a day here or there, but I’m going to try to write about 30 poets. And I thought about my approach a lot. Well, more about explaining my approach a lot. Creating a rubric that defended my choices. Should I focus on poets who don’t seem to get much attention? I’d lose out on writing about some of my biggest influencers. Should I write only about poets who have published books or chapbooks? I wouldn’t be able to write about young, fresh, exciting poets who haven’t yet found a home with a press yet. Should I avoid writing about friends? Come on. So many of my friends are poets. So many of the poets I know are friends. It’s just the company I keep.
The rubric I chose is randomness. What I pull off the shelf. That poem in the journal I read last month. A book I’ve been intending to read but haven’t yet. No logic. Mostly chance and circumstance.
NPM Feature #1: Sandy Longhorn
I met Sandy at the Black Lawrence table at AWP Denver in 2010. We crossed paths later at a reading at a very elegant and seemingly private club that in no other circumstance would I (or any other poet I know) gain admittance. I bought her book Blood Almanac (which won the 2005 Anhinga Prize for Poetry) because something she said made me think that she would write interesting poems. I forgot what that something was, but it was a beacon.
Sandy has a dynamic relationship with music in her poems. She approaches it, bargains with it, fights with it, plays with it, abandons it, embraces it. She breaks it and fixes it. She uses it. Sandy and music are like young, brash, tempestuous lovers. You never know how they are feeling about each other. And it’s so exciting to watch the relationship develop. Take the first two stanzas of “Incarnation” from Blood Almanac:
My previous bodies:
a wooden boat
a tangle of vines inching up ruins,
a misnamed saint poisoned and preserved.
There is never an escape, a rest,
from the audience and its eye.
O, Reader, you leer and peer
and pry, but I have helped you
loosen the fence board. Tho’ I am shy.
My favorite two lines are the first. The way she plays with all of those long and short “o” and “oo” and “u” sounds is close to chanting, as magical as past incarnations. And then the second stanza is almost song, but she won’t let it be completely song. The rhythm stumbles, as if in the shyness pronounced at the end.
I’ve recently received my copy of Sandy’s latest, The Girlhood Book of Prairie Myths. I haven’t yet had a chance to read through it, but a quick sampling reveals poems as tough and violent as prairie weather, and it’s no accident that many of these poems use weather and the elements as their lexicon. My favorite so far is “‘Touch Me’ Misread as ‘Torch Me,’” and I’ll close with my favorite line:
In winter and alone
we have each craved the match, the smoke and ashes.