Over at PFFA we have a mantra we like to toss at beginning poets. (We have lots of mantras, and we love tossing them.) It’s this:
Read more poetry.
By that we normally mean read more contemporary poetry.
But how much do we follow our own advice ourselves?
Well, let me speak for myself. I have been particularly bad in this regard. I used to read a whole lot of poetry, but I have not been good at keeping up with contemporary writers. There are numerous reasons for this, not least of which is that I live in The Bahamas where books are selectively imported. We are not exactly on the highway of the poetry publication! So I’ve been relying on Amazon and on other people to suggest books to me. And I’ve bought them, some of them — and (to be honest) have been underwhelmed.
So I thought I’d take Rob up on the challenge.
My chosen poet is Andrew Hudgins, someone to whom I was referred while workshopping a poem. I bought his book a couple of years ago but never read it. I’d dipped into it and wasn’t turned off, but never finished the book.
My book is Babylon in a Jar by Hudgins, and I started reading it today.
Here’s my response to the first poem (lifted wholesale from PFFA):
In the first poem there’s a tree, there’s some birds, there’s a shadow, and somehow it all adds up to a comment on life and afterlife and mortality. I approached it cautiously, as the poet approached the birds, and the shape of the poem rose up and hung in the air for a moment before scattering and becoming itself, and I was left to ponder.
Much like Hudgins.
The tree’s a chinaberry, which is beautiful and poisonous. The birds are grackles, a kind of jackdaw (shiny black bird), also beautiful, but presumably ominous, and certainly so in a clump. And then there’s the narrator, who can’t stop himself from approaching the sight, even though he knows he’ll destroy the sight as he moves.
This is what sticks, afterwards:
and for a moment in midair they held
the tree’s shape
…………………………the black tree
…………………………………………………peeling from the green
Edited to get the bloody name right …