Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Eau de Bad Poetry

Day 71 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project. Diane will soon be reading Swimming with a Hundred Year Old Snapping Turtle, poems by Freya Manfred, thanks to me and Garrison Keillor.

That is, I discovered Freya Manfred thanks to Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac, and Diane discovered her thanks to me reading one of her poems on Poetry Sunday at my church, in our annual celebration of National Poetry Month.

Oh! Or shall I say, "Eau!" This is not to suggest any badness in reference to Freya, though there is plenty of eau! She is swimming, after all, with a 100-year-old snapping turtle, and she is even swimming, with scuba apparatus, in her author photo in the back of the book, in the edition I have with an About the Author page added in August, 2009, by Red Dragonfly Press of Red Wing, Minnesota. (Have I mentioned I'm a Pisces? Have I mentioned my dream of swimming with dolphins? Have I mentioned my admiration for cephalopods? Including that playful octopus that stole the guy's video camera on my MSN homepage this morning! With song lyrics that include Jacques Cousteau, swimming with dolphins, and "I love you.")

I love Freya Manfred. I love her with the excruciating tenderness her poems generate in me.

As I told the congregation on Poetry Sunday, I feel about Freya the way Joan Didion's daughter felt about Georgia O'Keeffe when she saw the painting of clouds in the Art Insitute in Chicago. She said, "I need to talk to her." But, for now, I will listen to Freya, to her poems.

No, really, for now, I would like to discuss bad poetry. I am putting B is for Bad Poetry, by Pamela August Russell, on my Wish List at Amazon, awaiting that next coupon I get when I pay off my credit card bill. (I confess, that's how I got Freya Manfred, but now I will save up and actually buy her other books from Red Dragonfly Press!)

And this is the follow-up from yesterday, about Susan being troubled by finding only books by popular male poets, like Billy Collins (Ballistics), or immortal female poets (like Emily Dickinson), on the display endcap at Barnes & Noble during National Poetry Month. And, by the way, I handled one of the early printings of Final Harvest at work yesterday, right before the power went out and I went home, which is Thomas H. Johnson's edition of 575 of her 1775 poems.

Which does circle us back round to "bad poetry." That is, all of us poets have to write at least 1775 poems to get 575 good ones, or that's what it feels like, anyway. Surely even the great poets write plenty of bad and mediocre poems on the way to the good and great ones.

But what Russell has done is to celebrate the "bad" and "mediocre" impulse in all of us, humans or poets, in what must be actually very good poems, full of cleverness, craft, and probably downright genius. It takes a really good poet to write bad poetry, the kind that makes the reader cringe at the truth and laugh out loud, and that's what people are saying about B for Bad Poetry. Which is on the endcap at my local Barnes & Noble, for National Poetry Month!

And here is a bad poem I have written in honor of it, of her, and of bad poetry everywhere:

Today in Barnes & Noble

I saw a book of bad poetry
on the endcap.
I could have been making $$
at this all along.
I coulda beena contenda!

I Beano fartenda!

And now you know the horrible, embarrassing truth about me. (Although I was vaguely hoping you'd stopped reading this entry a little earlier....)


Kim said...

I think you may have forgotten to posta link to today?

Kathleen said...

Click Blueberry Rain on the right for something more delicious.

Etta Worthington said...