Once in a while, poetry sucker punches me in the stomach. It reminds me just how visceral and rangy it can be. Poetry can make me laugh or bend my lips into a wry smile. I find myself thinking about the sounds of poems and the imagery, but a poem doesn’t often send a shiver across the back of my neck.
Sometimes a poem comes along and makes me realize that poetry still has a few quick kicks. They make me realize that language is still alive and that a good poem can be about almost anything. Two poems that still leave bite marks are Steve Scafidi’s “To Whoever Set My Truck on Fire,” and Robert Wrigley’s “Horseflies.”
I first heard Scafidi’s poem on the From the Fishhouse web-site. If I remember it correctly, the poet was recording the poem in his henhouse at night because he had a small child and that was the only quiet place he could find. The recording was punctuated by the occasional rolling grumble of a sleepy chicken. Hens or not, the poem was amazing. Here is the poet reading his poem (not in a henhouse): http://www.fishousepoems.org/archives/steve_scafidi/to_whoever_set_my_truck_on_fire_live.shtml
Wrigley’s poem is frankly, disgusting. Although there is a story being told, I was so overwhelmed by the sensations that the poem transmitted I had to rub my face while hearing it. A collective shudder ran through the audience when Wrigley read it at the Centrum Writers Conference in July 2009. Beyond the subject matter, the use of sound and metaphor are superb. If you want the “car-wreck-you-can’t-look-away-from” experience, you can listen to it here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/journal/audioitem.html?id=452
It is my hope that each of you has a poem or passage of prose that awakens language for you. Share them with your friends. Cherish the stabbing awareness they bring.