Saturday, August 8, 2009

Poetry in McSweeney's Issue 31

McSweeney's Issue 31 includes poems. Hooray! Unlike issue 22 which included an entire section of poetry that later became the most excellent The McSweeney's Book of Poets Picking Poets, Issue 31 is dedicated to "Old Forms." Included therein are pantoum poems and senryū poems. And wouldn't you know it, "Circus," a pantoum by Jennifer Michael Hecht, includes monkeys!

My people were existential thugs.
At circus, monkeys in derbies rode us.
Muttering, Life, in a full-bodied shrug,
at circus we swept up the sawdust.

At circus, monkeys in derbies rode us,
while the great rode feathered horses.
At circus we swept up the sawdust,
the dove's debris and patrons' losses.

While the great rode feathered horses,
humming to Pegasus, Oh, Peggy Sue,
we'd unglove, debrief, and pocket losses.
Tanneries are what my people knew.

Brushing Pegasus to strains of "Peggy Sue,"
catching acrobats. Shadow of a big top,
tailor's tales of what the ball gown knew.
Sequins and confetti on a rag mop.

Catch an acrobat's shadow on the big top
muttering, Life, with a bruise. Shrugged
sequins; drooped confetti like a rag mop.
My people were existential thugs.

(Jennifer Michael Hecht, from McSweeney's Issue 31, 2009 McSweney's Quarterly Concern)

Senryū, an 18th century offshoot of haiku, is described as "short, unrhymed poems similar to haiku: three lines long, and made up of no more than seventeen syllables altogether." My favorite from Issue 31 is Douglas W. Milliken's:
At his father's wake: "He looks good.
Real good." Then he shrugs,
"Pretty good."

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