Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Most Important Poetry Topic Is?????

You've heard me say it a million times.

Finley will read my poems, yours poems, and before he even begins to offer up an opinion, Mike likes to qualify what he has just read....

"The poet just left me with a present here." or on the otherside of the coin "This guy didn'y have his audience in mind when writing this. He just had a need to shine a spotlight on himself."

So if that is the case, what does Finley write about?

The question is complex. I have read a 1/2 century of his work, and his themes have varied, but in the last 5 years I've noticed his focus has pointed to nature, expectations...but mostly family.

Switch gears with me here for a second now.......

So just the other day I get an e-mail from Saint Paul's own Poet Laureate Carol Connolly.

And at the bottom of the mailing was an attachments that that let "Creepers" like me stare into a site where Poet Laureates send each other ideas, encouragment and poems.

One of these poems talked about families, and the first person of thought about while reading this was Finley.

OK, hush up for just a sec and give this a quick look-see.

by Dorianne Laux, who lives and teaches in Oregon.

Family Stories

I had a boyfriend who told me stories about his family,
how an argument once ended when his father
seized a lit birthday cake in both hands
and hurled it out a second-story window. That,
I thought, was what a normal family was like: anger
sent out across the sill, landing like a gift
to decorate the sidewalk below. In mine
it was fists and direct hits to the solar plexus,
and nobody ever forgave anyone. But I believed
the people in his stories really loved one another,
even when they yelled and shoved their feet
through cabinet doors, or held a chair like a bottle
of cheap champagne, christening the wall,
rungs exploding from their holes.
I said it sounded harmless, the pomp and fury
of the passionate. He said it was a curse
being born Italian and Catholic and when he
looked from that window what he saw was the moment
rudely crushed. But all I could see was a gorgeous
three-layer cake gliding like a battered ship
down the sidewalk, the smoking candles broken, sunk
deep in the icing, a few still burning.
The End -
Whatta ya think?
Pretty cool huh?



  1. Danny, it's a lovely poem, detailed, well told, but there's a part of me that feels, as I almost always do in the face of poetry of this kind, that there's something just a little too easy about it, a little pat.

    And then, as I reflect upon it a second more, I develop a kind of rash in response to the way this poem compares the poet's family life to the family life of the friend in the poem, that there is an element of negative self-aggrandizement going on here, an implied victimhood that undermines the well-constructed imagery, the deft handling of line and rhythm, etc.

    What Laux needed to do here was to embrace how the boyfriend himself perceived what he clearly sees as a curse, not simply deliver the message -- no matter how artfully composed -- 'Think you had it bad? I would have loved it if that's all my old man did to me! Here -- stop nursing your wounds and take a look at my bruises!"

    1. Rich, i will have to delve deeper, i guess i didn't view it the way you did in your explanation. i guess i just got caught up in the poems exterior. I loved thinking of my family as a smosshed cake oozing its way down the sidewalk of Hartford Avenue, but you bring up great points.

  2. Last I knew, Laux was in Raleigh NC. She's a Facebook friend! Meaning, I have never met her.

    What she is doing is comparing her inexpressive possibly unloving) family with his overly expressive (therefore loving?) family. What's the truth? Who knows!

    As for the other, I don;t think about what the general category is (nature, religion, sex) when writing. I think about the thought I'm thinking ("Why are musicians' outtake albums so discouraging?" Answer: Because their throwaways are better than our very best), whatever that is.

    Then, as a reader you can stand back and see patterns ("He sure thinks about his penis an awful lot") but in the moment, who can stop and worry about that?

    And what kind of maniac would read 50 yrs of someone's work looking for patterns?

    What I worry about is writing the same poem 100 times, which I think I have done. We only really have a few poem-shapes in us -- the exaltation, the report, the love poem, the prayer -- and maybe two or three voices or attitudes.

    When i want to cringe, that's what I focus on.

    1. just shared my sercret with the world. i am a pattern seeking maniac.....thanks! LOL