Last time in my POW post I talked about poems using thee and thy. Today I’m going more modern… I’m going to discuss a poet we don’t have in the library catalog. Just because I love his stuff so much that I can’t not share it. (Don’t worry, though, I”ll give you links to his stuff and readalikes for books you CAN find in the library).
If you’re a fan of surreal images, repetitions of phrases, reimaginings of the lives of historical figures, and mysterious vagueness, you may also like Zachary Schomburg as much as I do. Two separate friends urged me to read his book Scary, No Scary. So I did. It was filled with simple language, little stories that were funny and, yes, scary.
He does a good job of explaining why he writes poetry (and what attracts me to his work) in this interview from Oregon Live’s blog:
“Mostly I want my poems to generate their own energy through confusion. I want my poems to confuse the reader. Not a confusion in a cognitive or narrative sense, but in an emotional sense.
In one of my poems in particular, a bear mauls a young performer on stage, which makes me laugh. It’s a bit absurd and unusual. But when she has to pick up all her pieces and put herself back together in front of the audience, we feel bad for laughing. We’re hyper-aware of our emotional choices.”
Here’s a video Schomburg made for one of his poems, entitled Your Limbs Will be Torn Off in a Farm Accident:
All of them are here.
The poet that Schomburg reminds me of most is Russell Edson. He also writes little surreal, funny vignettes. His bio on the Poetry Foundation site quotes fellow poet Donald Hall as saying of Edson’s work: “It’s fanciful, it’s even funny—but his humor carries discomfort with it, like all serious humor.” Edson’s preferred poetic form is the prose poem.
“some French poets, Breton, Eluard, Reverdy, Char. And I was reading Graham Foust. It looks like a Foust poem, if you blur your eyes a bit. And Simic and Tate and Mary Ruefle. And I remember listening to a lot of Neutral Milk Hotel, Beirut, Magnetic Fields, Smiths, and Richard Buckner (and Godspeed, like I said earlier) that summer.”
Simic is Charles Simic, former Poet Laureate, and another occasional writer of prose poems. Interestingly enough (not really), one of the first books of poetry I read was Hotel Insomnia by Simic.
There’s something about the prose poem that takes you into the moment and spins you out to so many absurd possibilities. That’s why I like reading prose poetry – I am also the type of person who likes hearing about other people’s dreams. Check out some of these books or read some of Schomburg’s work online, and see if you are too!
-Tessa, CLP East Liberty