"I cannot live without books." -- Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The First Straw

Let me give you one compelling and totally obvious reason to read poetry: it is (can be) really short. You can't read a book every day, maybe not even scrape together the time to read a single chapter of one, but even YOU can read a poem. For those of you unconvinced by that logic, here's another sound argument: poetry readers are scientifically proven to get at least twice the smug, pseudo-intellectual self-satisfaction of the average reader. Yes; this is a good thing.

In all seriousness, I think its a shame I only see people in the poetry section when they get lost on their way to Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Don't let the image of smoky coffee shops and an open-mic night featuring some pretentious ass with bad facial hair cloud your vision. Also, try not to think about being forced to memorize Robert Frost or a teacher Tourette's-ically shouting lines from Shakespeare sonnets in a futile attempt to explain iambic pentameter. It's time for a clean slate.

While I've always liked poetry, it started off as a joyless, self-pitying hobby. That all changed a few years ago when a friend turned me on to his favorite poet, Jeffrey McDaniel. While good ol' Jeff belongs to that whole slam poetry scene, which I simply can't get into, I picked up a copy of The Splinter Factory, and scene be damned, I liked what I read. "The First Straw," the poem which has served as namesake to this blog entry, has been circulating through my consciousness for years. It's been there each time I've been in love, from when "I miss you so much I'd jump off the roof of your office building to catch a glimpse of you on the way down" to "when the heart is a busted cup filling with spit and paste." Hell, it's even there when I watch the news "and it's the Wild West all over again." But I don't want to give the impression that Jeff McDaniel's oeuvre veers into the overly dramatic. He's funny, political (without having an agenda), and anything else I could say to more aptly describe him would be to write meaningless, lazy, and most likely semi non-sensical catchphrases (McDaniel's verse fiercely subverts the cliches of traditional prose!). So please, if you're going to read just one poem today, make it "The First Straw" (google it, I guarantee you'll find it on several random personal blogs). If you're going to read two, maybe come into Book Soup and order up the whole damn book. Until then, I'll keep trying to convince you that poetry is indeed your friend.

1 comment:

machiko said...

poems are also awesome cos you can carry them in your pocket!


or read and re-read them endlessly... which makes owning a book of poetry even better. it's easy to pick up and enjoy whenever, without the anxiety of having to finish the entire thing!

i bought a copy of wallace stevens' "palm at the end of the mind" at book soup.. and i love it.