Friday, May 09, 2008

How People Disappear

As I have noted before, I like the effect when a poem (or story or novel or book of any kind) seems to coincide with whatever is going on around me while I am reading it.

Back in March, while reading Reginald Shepherd's intoxicating collection Fata Morgana, I noted the snow outside when reading these lines from the poem "How People Disappear":

.... Late March
keeps marching in old weather,
another slick of snow to trip
and fall into, another bank
of inconvenient fact.

(To be precise, as I noted in the book, it was March 26, and there was snow on the ground in Basel.)

"How People Disappear" is a brilliant version of a type of poem (death of a parent) that must always somehow circumvent the easy generation of feelings afforded by the sadness of its content. The poet must avoid anything that might seem like a desire for pity, while at the same time articulating the feelings that the experience generated (and making the poem a vehicle for those feelings).

A completely different point about the same poem: I searched for it and found the original publication in the archive on the Ploughshares website. But I also found several copies of the poem at various poem sites (,, If it weren't on the Ploughshares site (and on Reginald's blog here), then I would feel uncomfortable about using the "illegitimate" sites to refer to it. Or should I steal it from the poem-gathering sites and put it here on my blog? I could ask Reginald (if you read this, Reginald, what do you think?), but I am also wondering how others feel about such republication of poems on-line (not because someone loved your poem and put it on their blog, but because it has been put on an on-line collection of poems that, I assume, does not pay for the rights).

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