Thursday, November 07, 2013

OK, so it's "365 Poems That MAY OR MAY NOT Rhyme, WHATEVER I JUST LIKE THEM, GET OVER IT." (365 Poems)

Not Billy Collins
When this series began on my other blog, it was intended to prove the point that poems ought to rhyme, because rhyming was what I felt was the single distinguishing characteristic of a poem (as opposed to prose).  I've since rethought that, a bit, spelling out my new taxonomy of fiction writing in a post on "Me, Annotated," which post, you might want to know, features both a poem and a scantily-clad woman whipping a man. ART!

Then, this morning, I was listening to "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" and the poet Billy Collins was on there. He's been a poet laureate of the US ("and New York!" added the NPR people, somehow  making the latter seem more of an achievement) and he apparently makes his living writing poetry? I don't know. Maybe. But he said this, which I thought was great:

"We're all born with 200 bad poems in us," he said, explaining that many people (if not everyone) writes bad poetry in high school, and it's important to do that to get those bad poems out of us.

I liked that quote, and so I went to find some Billy Collins poems to read, and this was the very first one I read.  It so took me with how great (albeit nonrhyming) it is, that I immediately came here to post it:


Also Not Billy Collins

The Revenant

I am the dog you put to sleep,
as you like to call the needle of oblivion,
come back to tell you this simple thing:
I never liked you--not one bit.

When I licked your face,
I thought of biting off your nose.
When I watched you toweling yourself dry,
I wanted to leap and unman you with a snap.

I resented the way you moved,
your lack of animal grace,
the way you would sit in a chair to eat,
a napkin on your lap, knife in your hand.

I would have run away,
but I was too weak, a trick you taught me
while I was learning to sit and heel,
and--greatest of insults--shake hands without a hand.

I admit the sight of the leash
would excite me
but only because it meant I was about
to smell things you had never touched.

You do not want to believe this,
but I have no reason to lie.
I hated the car, the rubber toys,
disliked your friends and, worse, your relatives.

The jingling of my tags drove me mad.
You always scratched me in the wrong place.
All I ever wanted from you
was food and fresh water in my metal bowls.

While you slept, I watched you breathe
as the moon rose in the sky.
It took all of my strength
not to raise my head and howl.

Now I am free of the collar,
the yellow raincoat, monogrammed sweater,
the absurdity of your lawn,
and that is all you need to know about this place

except what you already supposed
and are glad it did not happen sooner--
that everyone here can read and write,
the dogs in poetry, the cats and the others in prose.

______________________________________________________________________________

So I liked that not just because it gives dogs a voice that seems authentic and interesting, but it completely flips around both the notion of dog (or pet) ownership and makes the ownership seem cruel -- but then takes "Dog Heaven" and changes it into something both unknowable ("and that is all you need to know about this place") and spooky, a bit -- that dogs and other pets can read and write there, which is not made to seem a good thing because it says we are glad it did not happen sooner.  It's a chilling kind of poem, turning man's best friend into a revenant.  Remember what a revenant is?  A ghost or animated spirit that returns to terrorize the living.

My favorite part, though, is that little twist at the end: that cats can't be poets.  I don't know why I like that so much. I just do.

If you're interested in checking out the prior poems in this list (this is number 45) here is a link to the complete set. 

The two (main) people pictured here are Jamie Dornan (up top, the guy), who is the new ChristianRobPattinsonNotAVampire McMillionaire in the upcoming smash travesty of filmmaking, "50 Shades Of Gray."  The woman is Jamie Alexander, who is in Thor 2, playing the part of "That one girl who was in Thor 2 and then nothing else ever."  Both were picked by Sweetie, based on the following scientific reasoning:  "They are both hot."

3 comments:

Pat Dilloway said...

Aw, I hope that's not what my avatar Blue II thought about being a mascot.

Briane P said...

He's somewhere in Dog Heaven, penning angry sonnets. They rhyme and are beautiful, but they are also spiteful and vicious.

Andrew Leon said...

No, you are succumbing!

See, that doesn't work for me as poetry, just good prose written in verse format. And it is good prose and interesting, but, if you write it out as a paragraph, there is nothing within it to show that it's more than just a paragraph.

Maybe I'm wrong to cling to an outdated definition of what poetry is, but I keep going back to what originally separated the two things, and this, by that distinction, is just pretty prose.