Thursday, April 19, 2007

National Poetry Month Recommendation: Albert Goldbarth

Again, I apologize for not putting up a National Poetry Month recommendation yesterday. Very, very busy. Two today.

(And, no. The links weren't a hint. Just links to a couple of really good poets. Here's another one, too: meet Van Jordan, new Guggenheim fellow.)

Today, I'd like to recommend the "wacky, talky, and fat poetry" of two-time National Book Critics Circle Award winner Albert Goldbarth.

Goldbarth works in many moods, can be antic and deadly serious, and his poems are unmistakably his own. There's a wonderful new collection called The Kitchen Sink that I covet.

Here's a poem called "Buchenwald:"

originally, the beech woods of that area.
They have a quiet grandeur, when we edit
historic associations out of them. Bole after bole:
a quiet and recurrent grandeur. There was a copse
not far from my childhood neighborhood, the sun among the trunks
like clear, sweet speech and punctuation. I also
think of these sluggish summer evenings lately near the highway
where the mill pollution veils the lowering light
in especially glorious drifts of smoky tangerine and deep, seared rose.
—How even appreciation
of beauty becomes a betrayal.

There's so much to admire in that poem: the colon in the title, the way it is a part of the piece, the first real word of the poem, but because it is a word so packed with weight, it sits above the rest. On the page, it is a cinder block, squashing the rest of the poem with its significance. We have the moment when the poem acknowledges itself as a work of poetry—"like clear, sweet speech and punctuation," because poetry is meant to be read aloud, but exists punctuated on a page. And then there are the "glorious drifts of smoky tangerine and deep, seared rose," that betray us.

Good stuff.


  1. Almost chilling in its way. Reminds me of Brecht:

    What times are these,
    when to speak of trees is almost a crime
    for it is a kind of silence about injustice?

    -Bertolt Brecht, "To Posterity"

  2. Punctuating the title looks funny, the : is inconclusive. Blogging requires much attention to punctuation I suppose! Sad piece.

    The Hood Company


Thanks for your comment! We love hearing from you.

tell all your friends!