Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Daily Poem Project, week 3

This week's vote for the Daily Poem Project took place yesterday. The poems in question were those on Poetry Daily from Tuesday, April 18, to Monday, April 24.

This time, six of the seven poems received votes, and all poems receiving votes received at least two. The winner was clear: a selection from "Epitaphs," by Abraham Sutzkever, translated from the Yiddish by Jacqueline Osherow, received seven votes, while Elsa Cross's "The Lovers of Tlatelalco," translated from the Spanish by Sheena Sood, came in second with four votes.

It was a dark week: four of the seven poems (by Sutzkever, Cross, Forrest Hamer, and Major Jackson) were about war, violence, or genocide. I voted for Jackson's "Hoops," the title poem of his new book, which I gave the nod over Sutzkever's stunning poem (it received three votes in all). I was won over by Jackson's variably rhymed and invariably subtle quatrains: remembering Radar, a friend who played hoops well enough to get a scholarship but ended up getting shot in a drive-by shooting.

For the first time, a poem did not receive a vote, but it was the third poem I was considering voting for, "Breakfast with Bonnard," by Margaret Holley. This elegant depiction of how a poster in one's home becomes an intimate part of one's life probably did not stand a chance against several poems that addressed not a scene from everyday life but an Ausnahmezustand, and did so so well. Sutzkever's "pearls / threaded on a blood-red string of silk" figure so powerfully how the extraordinary and horrifying are touched by the everyday. It's hard to beat a poem that takes on such issues in such a grounded, memorable way.

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