This week I’ve had the honor to share some poems with an online community (other than this one). Given the proximity of my birthday, I thought, I shall share favorite poems and promptly went to my bookshelf and took down the stack of books I had specifically put together a few years ago to have when I wanted to read poems that sang to me.
The first one was easy. I pull that one out all the time. It struck me how much of it was free verse, honestly, but the repetition was still there, barely, and the closing couplet was as strong as ever.
I was dismayed to flip through some of the others and be confronted by more free verse than music, though. So I grabbed a poem whose whole purpose was music. And sighed in relief because it is still singing.
I had wanted to use Carrie Jerrell’s “The Poet Prays to the 9mm under the Driver’s Seat” because that, too, still sings, but it’s a song I couldn’t figure out how to preface with a trigger warning, because it seemed like the sort of thing, because of its excellence in embodying its subject, to need one. So I put Jerrell’s book back on the shelf.
This morning I picked up half a dozen books, flipped through, following the dog-eared pages that signified past pleasure, and nearly lost it. Because I had lost it: these poems no longer sang. There was still wit, and some of them, even the beloved one that has been a touchstone for a decade, still resounded in a line or two, but the emotion that had made me bend the page was no longer there.
No longer there in the poem? No longer there in me?