David Cherry's blog

National Poetry Month: What They Won't Tell You

Cover Art: Love, Ghosts and Facial HairOkay, I figure that headline up there sent most everybody fleeing as fast as their mouses could carry them. So, for the one or two of you who are still with me, I'm going to tell you something that no one else will.

Here it is: Poetry is not good for you, or at least not good for you in the way that most people think it is.

The fact is poetry is bad for you.

Now I know what you're saying,This guy thinks I can't see through this reverse-psychology stuff.  Despite appearances, I'm not dumb enough to think you're dumb enough to fall for that.

Ai (1947-2010)

Portrait of Ai: Courtesy of the Poetry FoundationOne can get a pretty good idea of where the poet Ai was coming from by scanning the titles in her bibliography: Cruelty, Killing Floor, Sin, Fate, Greed, Vice, and Dread. To say she was a poet who carried a rather dark view of human character, or to say she was an in-your-face provocateur, or that she was a feminist, or a voice for the ethnic hybrid who is so often cast as Other--who is allowed to belong nowhere, is to diminish her art. Yes, she was all of those things and would, I think, unapologetically tell you so, but those labels do not touch her verbal dexterity, her skill with the rhythms of speech, nor her inventiveness.

Dulce et decorum est: War and Anti-War Poetry

Cover Art: Blue-Tail Fly by Vievee FrancisSoldiers have been writing poetry glorifying or abhorring war for as long as there have been soldiers and wars. Others have written poems lamenting war's inhumanity and its wastes every bit as long. I guess the best we can do is work toward the day when neither will be necessary.

Below you will find poetry occasioned by war from the Harris County Public Library Catalog.

 

 

Irish Poetry for Saint Patrick's Day

Cover Art: The Secret of the Rose: The Love Poems of W. B. YeatsSorry I'm late--took a wrong turn at Sligo and ended up in Tipperary (a long, long way, indeed).
Ba-dum-tish.

Since so many Americans become Irish for the day on the Feast Day of Saint Patrick, I figure it is the least we can do to acquaint ourselves with some of the country's culture beyond our annual chats with Misters Jameson, Bushmill and Guiness, and the odd bowl of Lucky Charms®.

Dealing with the Devil and Other Ill-Advised Undertakings

Cover Art: The Doré Illustrations for Dante's Divine ComedyFrom the Department of No One Asked Me, But...
I was re-reading parts of Dante's Divine Comedy last week and remembered why I had always felt so uneasy about the experience my first time through. Here's the thing: Hell is...well, How should I put this?...a heck of a lot more fun (to read, at least) than Purgatory and Paradise. The Inferno is fairly brimming with pleasingly sadistic little set pieces

Notes on Amphigouri*: Slithy Toves, Granfalloons**, and Cromulentishness***

Illustration of the Jabberwock by Sir John Tenniel

Human language ranks even above the much-vaunted opposable thumb in my book. Sure, thumbs came in handy for our ancestors when it came to throwing spears at bison and such, but I think we can all agee that it was when humans developed the ability to order a mastodon sirloin rare with a side of sloth that things really started to take off progress-wise.

"A Writer First, A Woman After" --Katherine Mansfield

Honestly, I do not know what possessed me to attempt to tackle this topic, but here it is: there is no essential difference between male and female poets. In fact, I would bet dollars to doughnuts that in a blind taste test, it would be nearly impossible to accurately guess the gender of any given poet by the poem alone.*** The range of approaches and poetic concerns within each gender grouping are just too vast; in other words the category "women poets" is so broad as to be nearly meaningless.

Lucille Clifton 1936-2010

Cover Art: Wild Blessings: The Poetry of Lucille Clifton by Hilary HolladayLucille Clifton wrote as close to the bone as a poet can. She cut away much punctuation, all ornament and everything else that was superfluous to the task at hand. Her poems often had the rhythm of speech, but it was speech as one wishes speech could be. 

Love Poems For Valentine's Day: Guaranteed To Throw Sparks Or Your Money Back.

Photo Credit: aliança by Rodrigo GianesiFor some people Valentine's Day is easy. They sow Necco Sweethearts like grass seed, believing each little saying imprinted on each little pastel-tinted heart to be meaningful if not oracular. Then there are the conspiracy theorists who claim to have documented proof that the Truffle Makers' Guild and the equally nefarious Greeting Card Poets' Bund are behind the whole charade.

And then there are the rest of us, swinging between hope and despair.

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