Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Epiphany School

Yesterday I read Epiphany School, poems by Chris Green, straight through in the back yard.

I had read around in it previously, but it was time to read it from beginning to end, like a book.

Of course, I was delighted to come across these lines, inviting me to go about it differently:

In bed, after my habit of reading a book
back to front (my fear of no happy-endingness), I ask...

This book is full of such intimate moments, quiet confessions of a sensitivity almost too hard to carry around in life except that it is balanced by a comic detachment.  For example:


I'm holding my toddler who
is throwing up outside the pet store.
My dog is eating it
while the man next to me asks if I know
how much for the kitten in the window.
My senses heightened
to all labors, my daughter's crying
becomes a kind of loneliness so desperate
she's a sea without a boat.
At home, the care of her has the kitchen blazing.
My wife stands beautiful at the sink, wordless
but humming, dreaming of bright pink shingles.
An odd sobriety when I realize
the sexiest thing I can do is get a job,
bring news of a little money.

Boy, this hits home in so many ways--the tending of sick kids, the rest of the world paying so little attention to the moment at hand, the mix of domestic worries and delights, and the husband's wonderful insight, which, to me, is sexy.  And the amazing work done by the "bright pink shingles" as the last image before the insight.

On the facing page, domestic love + comic detachment = Kafkaesque absurdity, labeled as such:


Poor girl, I've accused her
of taking her sister's stuffed mouse.
Though I don't really know.
She holds the mouse high and seems to scream
Kafka! Kafka! She's learning to talk. I have no idea
what she wants. I, the petit bourgeois family
who keeps her trapped.

Like Kafka's writing, the scene is not
about struggling, but how people invent struggles,
and is more joyful than it appears to me.
I say, "Honey, I love you."
She says, "Shampoo."

See, aren't you laughing? This is a great book for pooh-poohing that advice to writers, "Never write about your pets or children," because Chris Green does both beautifully. If you're a poet, you could read this book to find out how to do it well, without sentimentality.

Indeed, I had one of my poetry students read "The Night My Grandmother Dies I Watch a Documentary About Sharks" to learn how to write about a grandmother's death without being sentimental. My own advice, based on this poem, was, "Just write about what's happening," and, "Read this," shoving my book at her. In that case, the book was The Sky Over Walgreens, also with Mayapple Press.

There's a lot going on in both these books, and I hope you will seek them out at Mayapple, where other poems are provided as excerpts.

Chris Green is a wonderful poet, and I love the blurb on the back of Epiphany School by E. Ethelbert Miller, that ends, "This is the Green movement we've been waiting for."


Maureen said...

I've added to my poetry to-order list. These are delightful poems.

Anonymous said...

must read! thanks.

Hannah Stephenson said...

WHEW!! Those poems are amazing...thanks so much for sharing them. I'll be looking for the books!

Kathleen said...

I'm so glad you fellow poets will be seeking out the books by Chris Green!

Mama Zen said...

This sounds excellent!

Kathleen said...

Yes, and, oh dear, Mama Zen, a Zen temple and a Zen museum play crucial roles in a couple of the poems....

herhimnbryn said...

Hallo. Here via Lucy's blog. I shall now go and find the poetry books. Thankyou.

Kathleen said...

So glad to hear that, and I'm sure they can ship to Australia!!