The Hollow Men

:::this is the way the world ends:::

Poetry Post

It IS National Poetry Month, so I shouldn’t let it get away without a current Poetry Post. This one from fellow Kansan Albert Goldbarth, who teaches at Wichita State University and who is the only poet to have twice won the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry. This poem is from the “new” section in his recently published (by Graywolf, no less) The Kitchen Sink: New and Selected Poems 1972-2007. Enjoy. And happy National Poetry Month to you.

Human Beauty

If you write a poem about love …
the love is a bird,

the poem is an origami bird.
If you write a poem about death …

the death is a terrible fire,
the poem is an offering of paper cutout flames

you feed to the fire.
We can see, in these, the space between

our gestures and the power they address
—an insufficiency. And yet a kind of beauty,

a distinctly human beauty. When a winter storm
from out of nowhere hit New York one night

in 1892, the crew at a theater was caught
unloading props: a box

of paper snow for the Christmas scene got dropped
and broken open, and that flash of white

confetti was lost
inside what it was a praise of.

3 Comments

  1. This is terrific. I’d like to read more of his work. I guess I can add it to the already lengthy list of “to read”s.

    I have been reading some prose works by W. S. Merwin, called The Miner’s Pale Children. There is one essay that made me think particularly of you, Shotts. It was called, Take This Simple Test. If you haven’t read it, you might enjoy it. But I guess we’ve had enough recommendations for now.

  2. Actually keep recommending. In the next weeks I’m hoping to compile all the recommendations into a single list — continually evolving of course — and figure out a way of putting a link in the side bar. (Toby? Suggestions?)

    Yes, Shotts, thanks very much for this. Looks like I’ll need to add another book to my Powell’s Wish List. Of course I especially like the reference to the artificial worlds of theater.

  3. Glad you’re enjoyiing this one. It’s one of Goldbarth’s strongest short poems–though he typically works in long sequences that intertwine history, science, and art in brilliant ways: the interconnectedness of all things.

    I like how this poem distills that and gets not only at the artifice of theater, but the artifice of all artwork: poetry perhaps most notably.

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