Skip to main content

A Year in Poetry: January, Check!

So I've finished American Primitive by Mary Oliver, a book published (in one of its editions) the year of my birth!

What makes me sad is that the first thing I landed on when I was looking for the cover art for this post was another blog saying they didn't really care for these poems or for nature poetry (maybe) in general.

While the line breaks are short and certainly seem to reflect a more "vintage" aesthetic, this the book of poetry that I luckily avoided during my MFA program. Because Mary Oliver's voice, what she seeks to do in poetry and what she accomplishes, where she looks for truth, are so similar to one of the strains of my own writing that if I had found this book then I might never have found my own voice. My first, egotistical, thought when I finished this book was "she reminds me of me!"

Mary Oliver's poems are infused with a bodily sensuousness, a preocupation with the bodily and the natural. She looks unflinchingly at the blood and guts of a pastoral world that is traditional sentimentalized. There is loveliness, heartache, strength, cruelty, and the basic inescapable truth that we are animals.

Maybe it's the "Back to Nature" throwback in me, but I think that everything about our modern, and then contemporary lives is designed to make us forget this. (I say "back to nature," although I would NEVER live in a yurt, but when I was a teen I was obsessed with, and memorized how, to homestead.) I mean, everything is sanitized, or fetishized, and it's totally perverse to me. People use "animal" as an insult. But for all that humans need to feed their minds and souls, it's the worst kind of foolishness to think we can ignore or dam up the needs of our animal bodies and be our healthiest selves. An animal is content in the form it was created--it knows no other. And there is a joy in that, and in Mary Oliver's poetry, of accepting as part of our humaness our physical natures. We are not angels--lucky us!


Popular posts from this blog

Women and Myth: Margaret Atwood and Circe

Circe, by Wright Baker "One day you simply appeared in your stupid boat," "Circe/ Mud Poems," Margaret Atwood, from You Are Happy I was alerted to this poem series by Estella Lauter's great chapter, "Margaret Atwood: Remythologizing Circe" from Women as Mythmakers. If you have the Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry, there is an excerpt in Vol. 2. And here is some interesting discussion of the text as well.

Armantrout's Feminist Poetics and the Meaning of Clarity

Because it doesn't seem to exist in digital form AT ALL, here's my annotation for this totally foundation feminist poetics essay. Rae Armantrout’s foundational essay “Feminist Poetics and the Meaning of Clarity,” offers a way of understanding the social in experimental poetry that is critical of a particular type of lyric subjectivity, described as univocal, closed, Romantic, imperial, and appropriative. For Armantrout, the stable poetic subject is inherently appropriative, serving epiphany demanded by mainstream form, constructed by metaphor’s appropriative nature. Armantrout specifically calls out the type of poems that most agree constitute conventional poetry of witness: “The conventional or mainstream poem today is univocal, more or less plainspoken, short narrative, often culminating in a sort of epiphany” (Armantrout 288). Elaborating, Armantrout argues that “such a form must convey an impression of closure, and wholeness, no matter what it says” (288). Closure an…

Feminist Ekphrasis: Margaret Atwood and Manet's Olympia

Margaret Atwood confronts the male gaze directly in her poem, "Manet's Olympia."