Stupid with Poetry

5 Mar

Today was a banner day for poetry, or at least for me reading and hearing poetry. On my way home, my brain was ringing with the stuff, making me feel almost stupid with joy. For all you non-poets, just think of a day where you got to eat all the cookies you wanted or saw three baseball games live in a row or sang full-throttle in the car, the radio station miraculously playing all the songs you love and to which you know all the words.  Today was a day like that.

First, my lovely friend K., who is so brilliant and thoughtful and deliciously smart, picked a book off my GoodReads “to-read” list and sent it to me for my birthday.  Intelligence personified, people!  The book, The Mind-Body Problem by Katha Pollitt, is so freakin’ amazing, I must look retarded reading it in public (yes, I know, I’m not supposed to use that word, but I love it and I’m having a hard time parting with it).

Here’s part of the poem “Playground” which made me think of my friend, who’s raising two beautiful and energetic boys:

In the hygienic sand,

of the new municipal sandbox,

children with names from soaps,

Brandon and Samantha,

fill and empty, fill and empty

their bright plastic buckets

alongside children with names

from obscure books of the bible.

We are all mothers here,

friendly and polite.

We are teaching our children to share.

This evening, I hustled down to Union Square, and the Lillian Vernon House, to hear Sharon Olds read.  Little did I know that the two gentlemen reading with her, Michael and Matthew Dickman, are not only brothers, and twins, but also her nephews, and brilliant, brilliant poets.

My view, two rooms away from Sharon Olds

The house was so full I had to sit in the back, back room, where I could glimpse the readers from time to time if I leaned way over into my seat mate’s air space.  This being New York City, she didn’t mind too much.

The Dickmans had my brain firing on all pistons, as you can see from the scribblings on the back of my program:

Deborah Landau, of NYU, introduced the brothers, Michael as the Dickinsonian and Matthew as the Whitmanesque.  They’re both mind-bogglingly awesome.  Here’s a little bit from Michael Dickman’s “Nervous System”:

You are a walking bag of surgical instruments

shining from the inside out

and that’s just


Tomorrow it could be different

And from Matthew Dickman’s “Grief”:

When grief comes to you as a purple gorilla

you must count yourself lucky.

You must offer her what’s left

of your dinner, the book you were trying to finish

you must put aside . . . .

And then, as if this wasn’t enough, Sharon Olds got up to read.  She’s one of my personal heroes, one of the early voices that made me think, I want to do that.  She read new poems along with the classics, though I found it hard to concentrate after she opened with “The One Girl at the Boys Party,” which you can read in its entirety here:  This is my all-time favorite Olds poem.  I get an almost profane pleasure from it, the way she describes the boys and girl as mathematical elements.

Oh, glorious day!  I hope you’re getting the good stuff today too,



2 Responses to “Stupid with Poetry”

  1. Jingle March 5, 2010 at 3:29 am #

    thank u for sharing your thinking about poetry…
    beautiful writing!

    • jhointhecity March 5, 2010 at 10:57 pm #

      Thanks so much! That’s very nice of you to say. I hope you’re reading good things too.

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