So I'm bringing out the big guns of the macabre, my old childhood companion, Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849)with my utmost favorite from him, Ulalume, in all its ineffable soaring and occasionally silly bleakness, plus, because Halloween is my favorite holiday, an extra poem--just a small side dollop of the stark with In the Desert by Stephen Crane (1871-1900) to take some of the purple pouffe out.
Sometimes it's hard to read Poe with a totally straight face as an adult, and yet he comes up with some amazing language that just knocks you backwards, even as you're shaking your head going, "over the top" or "sometimes less is more."
Crane is Crane, in this one, short, sharp and merciless. If you're only familiar with him as the author of The Red Badge of Courage, his poetry is more than worth exploring.
You'll find both poems here on the Off the Shelf Page
And here is the previous selection for one last reading before it enters the vault, The Day I Saw Barack Obama Reading Derek Walcott's Collected Poems, by Yusef Komunyakaa, this years winner of the Wallace Stevens Award for Poetry. I wrote more about him last month and included some links here if you're curious about him.
As always please feel free to comment on either poem here, as comments are disabled off the main page. Suggestions for next time are always welcome, also.
The Day I Saw Barack Obama Reading Derek Walcott's Collected Poems
Was he looking for St. Lucia's light to touch his face those first days in the official November snow & sleet falling on the granite pose of Lincoln? If he were searching for property lines drawn in the blood, or for a hint of resolve crisscrossing a border, maybe he'd find clues in the taste of breadfruit. I could see him stopped there squinting in crooked light, the haze of Wall Street touching clouds of double consciousness, an eye etched into a sign borrowed from Egypt. If he's looking for tips on basketball, how to rise up & guard the hoop, he may glean a few theories about war but they aren't in The Star-Apple Kingdom. If he wants to finally master himself, searching for clues to govern seagulls in salty air, he'll find henchmen busy with locks & chains in a ghost schooner's nocturnal calm. He's reading someone who won't speak of milk & honey, but of looking ahead beyond pillars of salt raised in a dream where fat bulbs split open the earth. The spine of the manifest was broken, leaking deeds, songs & testaments. Justice stood in the shoes of mercy, & doubt was bandaged up & put to bed. Now, he looks as if he wants to eat words, their sweet, intoxicating flavor. Banana leaf & animal, being & nonbeing. In fact, craving wisdom, he bites into memory. The President of the United States of America thumbs the pages slowly, moving from reverie to reverie, learning why one envies the octopus for its ink, how a man's skin becomes the final page.
by Yusef Komunyakaa