Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Daily Poem Project, week 2

The vote for the Poetry Daily poems from Tuesday, April 11, to Monday, April 17, took place this morning. Once again, all seven poems received votes, but this time the votes were distributed more evenly, with no poem receiving more than four, and there was no first-round winner: "Dowsing for Joy," by Floyd Skloot and "Springtime, 1998," by Hayden Carruth tied for first with four votes. A runoff vote was necessary, and the winner was Carruth's poem, nine to eight.

In both the main vote and the runoff, I voted for Skloot's poem, in which a dowser discusses how dowsing works:

He says there are signs everywhere,
obvious things that most of us simply miss
like the scent of blooming lilies carried on air,
or hidden fields of force that call us home
when we can no longer bear to be alone.
What is music but waves plucked from the sky [...]?

For me, John Koethe's "Hamlet" (which received three votes) was quite striking, as Koethe's biography is uncannily like mine: off to college to study physics, he finds the courses disappointing:

................................instead of paradox and mystery
And heroic flights of speculation that came true,
You had to start with classical mechanics and a lab ...

So he ends up studying philosophy and writing poetry. The poem is also interesting because it reveals the existence of a DVD of Richard Burton playing Hamlet in a stage production!

1 comment:

Andrew Shields said...

Dear Christian,

Thanks for your comments on Carruth.

I quickly decided not to vote for his poem because I found the form distracting; the line breaks disrupted the syntax to no positive effect, as far as I could tell:

where the limestone ledge
crops out our wild
cherry trees

were making a great fountain
of white gossamer.

Here, with the possible comma omitted after "out" in the second line I have quoted, it is quite possible to misread the poem and end up completely confused.

Because of these infelicities, Carruth's poem was not even on my shortlist, which was finally Koethe's "Hamlet" and Skloot's "Dowsing for Joy." Even though I found the former deeply moving (it is a version of my life, as it were), I voted for the latter because I found it flawlessly beautiful. Koethe's poem has an appropriately chatty form, but that chattiness also means that it has certain limits that it is very hard for the poem to go beyond (a general problem I often have with the "New York School" poets whom he refers to). Perhaps I also voted for the Skloot because I felt that the Koethe poem appealed to me in such an idiosyncratic way, whereas the Skloot poem appealed to me in such a way that it seemed like it might appeal to other people, too.