Friday, November 21, 2008

Where I jump on the Poetry Friday Bandwagon

I have been studiously avoiding Poetry Friday posts since I've been blogging, which is perverse because I love poetry--but until now it had little relevance in my day-to-day work. No more!

So, here, to begin, is one of my favorites, from my favorite poets:

Bantam in Pine-Woods

Chieftain Iffucan of Azcan in caftan
Of tan with henna hackles, halt!

Damned universal cock, as if the sun
Was blackamoor to bear your blazing tail.

Fat! Fat! Fat! Fat! I am the personal.
Your world is you. I am my world.

You ten-foot poet among inchlings. Fat!
Begone! An inchling bristles in these pines,

Bristles, and points their Appalachian tangs,
And fears not portly Azcan nor his hoos.

-Wallace Stevens (1922)

I love the sound of this poem, and I love its thumb-biting at the canon (even though Stevens is now a canonical poet). The traditional reading has the inchling and the ten-foot poet as confident new American poetry "bristling" at perhaps condescending Old World poetry (hence, chieftain "if you can" ). I think the note of rebellion and outward self-confidence makes it nice poem for YA-inclined writers. The line "Your world is you. I am my world" has provided me with literally years of fodder for contemplation. What exactly are the differences?

Here's a LibraVox reading.

ADDED: I meant to dedicate this post to Professor Wojciech Kotas, once upon a time of Lawrence University, who taught modern and contemporary poetry (and also taught me Ulysses) and nearly made my head explode.


TadMack said...

Huh. Now I'm going to have to think about this for the next two days. I've never read this one!

Welcome to Poetry Fridays, by the way!

Julie Larios said...

Andrew -
I love this poem and memorized it for 10 of the 180 lines required of me in my MFA program. Have never run into anyone who loved it equally, so I was particularly pleased to see it up on the Poetry Friday round-up. Stevens is a genius with sound, and he gets a poem to go where it needs to go, always willing to bend the straight line from A to B. I have the words "Fear not portly Azcan nor his hoos" up on a Post-It on my computer - just a reminder to be brave and push back when language pushes me.