Seeking Poetic Enlightenment

You know how you make New Year’s Resolutions only to break them within days? After I failed to re-read The Brothers Karamazov a few years ago (for my NYR), I decided to go smaller – much smaller. I’d read The New Yorker poems on a semi-regular basis, because I just don’t have the time/patience/energy to read the The New Yorker.

True confession: I love The New Yorker poems, but I don’t always get them, and sometimes they make me angry, because I think: why I am not really getting this poem? Or, even worse, why’d they choose _this_ poem? Recently (March 4, 2013), they published Ellen Bryant Voight’s “Owl.” Finally, a topic which I know something about on a personal level. That gives me a leg up, right?

Barred owls are the coolest.

Barred owls are the coolest.

“Owl” is a pretty cool poem, describing the driven, uncanny accuracy and silence of an owl seeking its prey; it also mixes in the narrator’s memory of an empty room and a dead loved one (and other stuff: you’re going to have to read it). To me, the poem is about the unrelenting nature of time and death (among other things) and the necessity of gratitude (a form of wisdom). It’s one of those poems which you need to read and reread and mull over: it doesn’t come easily, but it is beautiful.

What excited me just as much as the poem was a great blog, PoetryCommentary, which comments on poetry in current U.S. magazines. It’s been helpful to me, and I plan to read it (and the poems it discusses) regularly. The author, P M F Johnson, is a poet himself. I’m old enough and time-deprived enough that I like someone else’s poetic perspective on poems which don’t come easily to me.

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About Carey Hagan

I'm a reference librarian in Virginia and I do children's and YA [young adult] reader's advisory.
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One Response to Seeking Poetic Enlightenment

  1. pmfjohnson says:

    Carey, thank you so much for your kind words. My wife and I enjoyed this post of yours as well. Honestly, I think sometimes the point of the New Yorker poems is that you don’t get them. ;->

    P M F Johnson

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