Thursday, January 9, 2014

Model Poems

Am I unnatural? (Maybe this is a question that everybody asks themselves and some of us then become poets. But I mean something else.) I'm going to an informal gathering of poets this weekend, and we're supposed to bring model poems--meaning a poem that we would like to write, that we aspire to. On the face of it, I believe in model poems. I use them all the time in poetry workshops because I think they make our ideas about what a poem can be larger, more infinite in variety. But do I ever want to have written someone else's particular poem? Maybe this is a matter of semantics. I am perhaps sometimes jealous of the mastery? But are they ever saying what I would say? Isn't that impossible.

And what should I bring? I'm almost certain I'm going to bring Paisley Rekdal's poem Mae West: Advice. I like it for its bravura, in your face excessivism of sound; its rounding on the sonnet as male love poem; its unusual pleasurable language. I do love it, but I don't want to write it. I had some thoughts about Matthew Dickman's poems because I recently read Mayakovsky's Revolver. I like that his poems are long and filled with wonderful imagery like "All the cigarettes she would light/ and then smash out, her eyes/ the color of hairspray, cloudy and sticky/ and gone, but beautiful!" If I was forced to name my favorite poet, it would probably be Elizabeth Bishop in poems like "Crusoe in England," but that's a very long poem. Maybe "Filling Station?"

Don't get me started on which two poems of my own I should bring!


  1. True - abt the models. For me, stories like The Swimmer, or The Things They CArried.

  2. I like rhythms. This afternoon I was tapping out "The Garden of Prosperpine" (well, the penuntimate verse) as if it were a score to be played on bongos. I like the way the lines alternate between ending on an up-beat and on a down-beat, and then it breaks into dactyls in the penultimate line...
    I'd never write that... but I love the rhythm.

  3. Maybe something from Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones), a force for social justice who just died.