Archive for June, 2012

Best American Poetry 2011


I am reading The Best American Poetry, 2011.  The Series Editor, David Lehman, asks what makes a poem great?   He scours among poets to find the answer, which varies considerably.  To me, one suggestion that resonates is that the poem is memorable.  It’s the poem that gets under your skin and occasionally itches, reminding you that it’s there to make you smile or to console you or to help conjure an unforgettable image

My friend Linda says that poetry is expressing in a few words, feelings and thoughts that lie just under the surface, unexpressed until words give them life.  That is something for any poet to aspire to!

I am sure all of the poems in The BAP 2011 are great, although I do not like all of them.  But that’s ok because I am focused on the ones that I wish I had written.  The poems are arranged alphabetically by author’s last name.  I am through “E” so far.  My library copy is due July 10, so I have a few days to make it to the end.

A through E

The first poem I wish I’d written is by Erin Belieu.  She is from Nebraska and writes about her self-conscious self “When at a Certain Party in NYC.”  I’ve been there.

Next, “The Sink” by Catherine Bowman.  I remembered reading this in The New Yorker and enjoying its dreamy state of dishwashing while under the sink, who knows what manner of evil lurks?

Turner Cassity – a great name! – a poet I had not known but who has a very interesting biography.  Unlike most of the poets who are PhD professors, Turner was a librarian who retired from Emory University in Atlanta in 1991.  He was from Jackson, Mississippi, a city I have visited.  He died in 2009 at age 80.  What I like about his poem is that it is made up of 13 rhyming couplets.

Finally, “From the Lives of My Friends” by Michael Dickman, which is a three part poem, sort of an abstraction spread across and down the page, not the type of poem I generally like, but what inspired him is, well, inspiring.  He recalled Chekhov had wanted to write a novel called “Stories from the lives of my friends.”  He used an additional biographical tidbit from Chekov’s death in the poem as well.  An honor, I think.

Up next:  F through….H?


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Road Poems


I learned a new vocabulary in North Dakota:  Bakken, fracking, horizontal drilling, man camps…and I read about production forecasts of more than a 1,000,000 barrels of oil a day from the Bakken formation “oil patch.”   While we were there, the papers reported that ND has moved ahead of Alaska and behind Texas to be the number two oil producing state.  The population of the state is just 640,000, so there’s a huge influx of people needed, especially to drive trucks. 

We were in the Southern Unit of Teddy Roosevelt National Park.  Ground zero for the Bakken is further north.  But, we still got a taste of the volume of traffic and met a few of the workers, who were living in their trucks.  The infrastructure – roads, housing, schools, sheriffs – can’t keep up.  McDonald’s is offering a $300 bonus to new employees and teachers and nurses are abandoning their jobs for the oil fields.  It’s truly a boom and a boon for businesses and start ups.  As for the environment..well, if the Bakken was on the coast of California, I bet more people would know about it.  If you’d like to know more, here’s a good blog to follow:

The Bakken

There’s grassland out in Dakota.

that’s no match for the patch below

that flares on the edge of TR’s park

and send the Elk deep into the dark.


Men come for work and camp in their trucks,

leaving their daughters to frack some water,

crack open the shale to get at the oil.

And the drills dig out and the rigs just toil


24/7 on the bison’s view of the pews  

of the sacred rocks of the Sioux, now dead.

Yeah they never got their due, but we’ll get oil

in exchange for the land now spoiled.



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