This Be The Verse: Choose Your Favorite (version 2)

This is my second version of ‘This Be The Verse: Choose Your Favorite’. As the final piece for my blog, I workshopped with my professor and a fellow peer in order to make this post its absolute best. We added a little, deleted some things, and I think it has come a long way. It truly is a different version from the first, and I hope its improvements symbolize my advances across the semester. 

Choose your Favorite:

Last week, Mr. Denton assigned us a homework task that could result in the exhumation of pain, sweat, and tears. If taken seriously, this assignment had the potential to stress out its victims, cause them to break down like a downtrodden car, or perhaps cave in, like that old abandoned house tucked behind the woods. My classmates and I were given the outrageous task of discovering our favorite poem and reading it aloud, for the next scheduled class period. The hard-smack-sound I heard in the back of the classroom was the two athletes high-fiving; they must’ve thought this week’s project was a simple and laidback one; however, I knew the truth of the matter. My favorite poem… I think I would need a lifetime to uncover an opinion.

How does one who is only twenty years of age have a favorite poem? So many poems are colorful and beautiful, meaningful, and bold. But how can I choose one that I have discerned as my favorite? I can recall unearthing a Shell Silverstein poem, when I was in sitting in my elementary school library.

William tell, William tell,

Take your arrow, grip it well,

There’s the apple– – aim for the middle– –

Oh well … you just missed by a little.

For some reason, this poem has stuck with me through the years, and I treasured it because it was short (I could remember it), and the character in the poem was notably historic. But this only taught me that poetry can linger with you, speak to you, and even change your mood or your views on particular topics; however, there are many poems I have memorized and admired in the past, and this does not mean that they are my favorites. I love poetry; I am a fan of poetry. I have attended over a dozen poetry events where I listen to poets passionately recite their poems. Yet, as I continue to add more and more poems to my repertoire everyday, there has not been that one poem that glows in the dark. After Mr. Denton’s class that day, after the homework was given, I sat on my bed, and I pondered this assignment. I glanced to my right and spotted the first X on the map- a book of poems. This is where the adventure began.

I began this journey at my first destination, my book of Bill Knott poetry. Bill Knott has been one of my favorite poets for only a few months now, and I find his honest and somewhat dark language to be striking and attractive.

“DEATH”

Going to sleep, I cross my hands on my chest.

They will place my hands like this.

It will look as though I am flying into myself.

He speaks of beauty, love, and death in the glummest terms- it’s fascinating and also unique. He’s an outsider who knows of his honest place in this world; he knows where he stands in the public eye, and he is not afraid to encompass this outcast role. When I decided I wanted to be a Bill Knott fan several months ago, I investigated his history and found a humorous fact. He once faked his own death, and this is not surprising if you appreciate his poetry. Afterwards, he wrote of himself: “my poetic career is nugatory … no editor will countenance my work; I’ve been forced to self-publish my poetry in vanity volumes; I am persona non grata and universally despised or ridiculed by everyone in the poetry world.” Knott commonly spoke of those who didn’t value him. Imaginably he found it difficult to believe that people, such as myself, really admired and embraced his irrational mind.

“TO X”

You’re like a scissors

Popsicle I don’t know to

Whether jump back

Or lick

Come on… who can’t admire and grasp such a brilliant four-lined poem?

I admire Bill Knott’s poetry, and I respect his talent for making the most absurd and entertaining titles for hit poems; however, I did not find a poem of his that I felt comfortable calling my favorite. The next poet I decided to research was the noteworthy poet, Jon Sands, and it felt like I was flying across the country. Sands and Knott are very different poets. They are similar in the fact that they talk about topics in an honest way; however, Sands does not have an outcast appearance or a desire to transform light topics into gloomy ones. In my humble opinion, Sands fits in with the crowd. In one of his poems, he talks of the rapper, Ludacris, and on his personal blog he mentions his love for tuna fish sandwiches. His poems include taboo subjects, and he speaks his mind, he says what we are all thinking, with confidence and contention. If you’ve scrolled through my own blog, you know that I have seen him perform live, and what an incredible occasion that was. Sands is beyond friendly, beyond vulgar, and beyond amusing. He is without a doubt one of my favorite modern poets; check out some of his videos on YouTube- they’re sensational. But, once again… his poetry is tremendous and spot-on, and I could not choose a favorite.

As I sat at my computer staring at the poetry of Knott and Sands, I fatefully answered a phone call from my grandmother. Being a fan of poetry herself, I asked her what her favorite poem was, and she mentioned the well-known Yeats. I think the sole reason she likes his poetry is because he is a fellow Irishmen (let’s keep that between us). Regardless, the phone call from my grandmother had me thinking about family, and like the rapid ignition of a candlewick, an idea was sparked in my mind.

Let me back digress for one moment. I have a mom, a dad, and two sisters. I love my family; we are a happy, solid-foundation-ed family, and truly, although we argue over thoughtless matter, I could not ask for a better family. Freshman year, I took an English class, and while I sat in this class, the homesickness I felt towards my home was commonly enflamed. For some uncovered reason, my emotions could not be suppressed while in this class, most likely because the poetry I wrote and read embodied my love for my parents and sisters. A similar homework assignment was given to us in this course, where we didn’t have to choose our favorite poem, but we had to pick a poem to memorize and recite to the class. I expectedly chose a poem about family, a poem that had a sense of Knott in it. Philip Larkin’s ‘This Be the Verse’ was my chosen poem freshman year, and now it was going to be the poem I declared as my favorite.

The initial stanza is:

‘They fuck you up your mum and dad… They may not mean to, but they do…. They fill you with the faults they had…. And add some extra just for you.” I love this poem because I find it to be honest. There’s a sense of comedy in it, and yet, like Sands and Knott’s style, it has truth, the kind that most parents and children probably deny. I appreciate my family more than many college students I know, and I do not believe in Larkin’s negative words in the slightest. However, I do embrace the fact that I am a product of my family’s fuck-ups (excuse me), and as Larkin says, I am who I am because of their faults. It’s very difficult to call a poem my favorite; however, this one will forever be one of my top five. Perhaps I enjoy it because I get to say fuck whenever I perform it, but there’s also something so frank about the meaning that I am required to embrace it. To me, my family is faultless even though we can be occasionally disorganized or obnoxious in public. We may be flamboyant, perhaps dysfunctional, but my parents’ fuck-ups don’t affect me in the most damaging of ways. I love my family, and I love Larkin’s words.

What’s your favorite poem?

 

Interview in Progress

That Time I Got Coffee with Jon Sands…

So… that time has not happened yet, but who knows what the future holds. I imagine us basking in the Brooklyn sunshine, maybe sipping lattés under the bridge, and talking about vulgar things… or family and friends. Until then, I got a hold of Sands’ email, and who knows how he views it, but to me, we are beginning an interesting journey together- I have ask him a few personal questions, and at his convenience he is going to respond to my inquiries.

 Our first few words to each other were, “I love your work” (star struck expression*), and he responded with something along the lines of, “I’m a very busy man, but I will be sure to answer your questions!” I had really hoped he would be able to answer my questions sooner rather than later, but truthfully, I am really excited to post our conversation on my blog, once he does get a few free moments to respond.

 School has been busy, and midterms are in full swing. Spring Break actually begins tomorrow, and I could not be happier to be able to set the textbooks aside for at least a few days. I will be making several trips to New York City, and I swear, if I run into Jon Sands (let’s pretend there is a significant chance), I will be speechless, as if I have just run into the beautiful manhood of Colin Farrell’s chest. Regardless, keep an eye out for a very exclusive Jon Sands interview! I do not doubt that it will be candid and entertaining. 

Poetry @Tech, February 20th

The Gold Goes to Sands

On Thursday night, February 20th, I went to another Poetry @ Tech event. I was eager to go to this particular event because I excitingly anticipated seeing the poets we had talked about during my Creative Writing class. Specifically, Jon Sands was the poet I was most enthusiastic to see because his YouTube videos I viewed suggested he was a refreshing, exhilarating, and genuine young poet. However, all the poets pleasantly surprised me, for Jon Sands, Jeffrey McDaniel, and Vivek Sharma were all outrageous and entertaining. Their poetry was candid and honest, and most important to me, very personal. None of these poets held back their sincerest emotions, and I appreciated that for it allowed me to see the truest building blocks of their poems. After the event I had the opportunity to talk to Jon Sands and he was just as personal as his honest poems. Overall, I would say the event was a success- the continuous laughter that filled the audience was the poets’ metaphorical gold medal.

Vivek Sharma was the first poet of the night, and he began the event with personal stories of his Indian culture. I tremendously appreciated the first poem he read, for it was a Thomas Lux original, said once in English and another time in Hindi. I appreciated this unique reading of the poem because it was a wonderful tribute to Thomas Lux. Personally, I found it very interesting to hear this poem, ‘It’s the Little Towns I Like’, in a language other than English. Overall, I enjoyed Sharma’s reading; he made the audience laugh, and at times he laughed along, which I found to be very special. However, there were a few things I found to be a little disturbing about his poems. One aspect of his poetry that I thought could be improved upon was the prosey content. Sharma’s poems were filled with interesting stories and dedications to his loved ones. But, they appeared to be magnificent short stories rather than a creative assembly of words. Furthermore, Sharma read his poems with vapid hand movement, and although I appreciated him using his hands to help act out his poems, at times it was a bit distracting.

Jon Sands was the event’s next poet, and while Vivek Sharma read, I could not help but be very excited for Sands’ reading. Sands began with his poem titled, ‘Moons Over My Hammy’, and this tore the audience into laughs and contentment. The poem was blunt and honest, and from the standpoint of a twenty-year-old critic, the poem was very ‘awesome’. There were tons of pop-culture references and dedications to his sixteen-year-old life, and he was capable of doing all this while remaining poetic. Some of Sands’ poems were morbid; however, they were full of figurative language and they talked about feelings, and the moroseness of the poems was put to ease by the magic of the congregation of words in the poems. The poem, ‘For my Brother Ben and my Brother Wendel on Their Wedding Day’ was a very interesting love poem, and something particularly fascinating to me was that this poem successfully proved that the speaker of a poem does not have to be the poet himself. This poem talked of love and romance from the perspective of one in love, and it was apparent to me that this was not Jon Sands. Overall, I thought Jon Sands was an amazing poet. I was not sure if Jeffrey McDaniel could exceed Sands’ impressive works.

Jeffrey McDaniel was the last poet of the night, and as soon as he stepped foot on the stage, without introducing himself or saying a word to the audience, he jumped right into a poem. I did not even know the title of this poem, and although some audience members might have enjoyed McDaniel’s quickness, I felt a bit overwhelmed. Nevertheless, McDaniel was also a very exciting poet, and he too, made the audience laugh, and at the point where he mentioned his closeness with Professor Thomas Lux, the audience realized and appreciated the true sincerity of McDaniels. During McDaniel’s reading, I must admit, my head was still wrapped around the words of Jon Sands. Sands had his audience so involved in his reading that he even asked questions to the room of spectators, which I admired. Jeffrey McDaniel’s did not do this, and his poems still maintain life; however, when he used the words anus and penis in his poetry, I couldn’t help but wince. Perhaps this is my maturity speaking; nevertheless, I am sure that had Sands mentioned these words in his poems, I would have stood from my chair and clapped my hands with fervor.  Nevertheless, I suppose it was because Sands exceeded my expectations that I felt McDaniel did not completely enliven me.

Overall, the Poetry @ Tech event on February 20th was an unquestionable success. Each poet had the audience laughing and smiling, and the content of their poems were particularly personal. By being especially personal, the audience had a special view into the poets’ insides; we got to see the makeup of each poet, and it was inspiring to see how each poet was stimulated by similar content- their friends, family, loved ones, and the places and cultures they were raised. February 20th was a fantastic event, and I truly look forward to reading more works by Sands, McDaniel, and Sharma.

The Middle Gemini

Here is another poem I have been working on for the past few weeks. I really think the topic is interesting- horoscopes. However, my problem is that I think I may be telling more than I am showing. And of course, showing is must more interesting and attention-grabbing. Tell me what you think.

The Middle Gemini

 

While my sisters read Vogue and I, Cosmopolitan,

The calm of the moment settles a smile on my face.

Expectedly, my older sister interrupts my peace to harp,

And like a hovering hand above a flame, I eye the Horoscope in her hands.

She tells me my personality assures the accuracy of astrology,

Since it is two competing traits, like a tug of war game.

I shut my eyes tight, and I know she is full of input,

As she digs her talons into my back, with the words ‘innocence’ and ‘ferocity’.

“Bipolar,” my little sister pipes in without a sheer moment of hesitance.

“For one moment you’re calm, the next, your claws emerge.”

I roll my eyes and scoff at their lyrics- my claws….

But the jury has made the decision,

And they have agreed.

And my peaceful moment has entirely spoiled,

Like the most rotten apple you’ve ever tasted.

And they say harmoniously, like the two sisters of Cinderella,

“You are dictionary definition Gemini.”

7 Reasons Why You Should Like Jon Sands and Read His Poetry

Jon Sands’ is a poet I recently discovered, and although I don’t know everything about him, his Youtube videos tell me he is absolutely honest, genuine, and cool. Why do I use the word ‘cool’? Just watch his video I posted on my blog, and you’ll catch my drift. He’s young and he’s a breath of fresh air. He’s very talented, and I hope you don’t mind profanities- he has no filter when it comes to language; it’s awesome. Here is a list as to why you should enjoy his poetry just as much as I do. (And I’m hoping to continue learning more and more about him!)

1.) He’s a Brooklyn based author…. who doesn’t love a guy from Brooklyn? So I don’t think he originates from Brooklyn, but my dad is from Brooklyn, and you can’t help but love that New York state of mind. 

2.) In 2010 he toured Germany in conjunction with the American Embassy. Now who doesn’t love wiener schnitzel? That stuff is amazing.

3.) According to his public blog, he’s fantastic at making tunafish sandwiches. Now, I am not a fan. But if his tunafish sandwiches could win my heart over, that accomplishment is worthy of a prize.  

Okay, I’ll begin getting serious….. Here are some amazing lines in some of his poems. 

4.) In ‘A Working List of Things I Will Never Tell You’, a poem by Sands, he says the line -“Not only do they make you look too young,
but then your torso is a giraffe’s neck attached to tiny legs.” Now, this is a love poem… how on earth does a man have a line like this in a love poem, and manage for it to sound so… beautiful in conjunction with every other stanza? Check this poem out. It’s brilliant. It is the video posted on my blog. 

5.) Just read this please… “Your approval is not my concern. I am not 
afraid to speak like there is something at stake. I am not afraid to finish 
this poem. This poem is not about me. I do not want you to listen. I am 
not afraid. I am not afraid. I am not afraid. Afraid not I am. Afraid not 
am I. Not afraid I am. I do not bleed. I am not human. I am not here.”

This is from his poem titled, ‘Not About Me’. 

6.) Read these lines too from the same poem, “I have never 
been persuaded to love without condoms. I never called it love when it 
should have been called penis.”

I mean, how blunt and honest can you get? Don’t you love it? He speaks the truth, and he doesn’t care who closes their eyes tightly and throws their hand over their mouth. He must enjoy the shock value, or maybe he doesn’t believe there is one. Maybe Jon Sands thinks this is informal language- honest, sincere language; the way we are all suppose to speak. 

7.) Check out Jon Sands’ poem, ‘Highway 71’. Once again, it’s blunt, quick, and honest, and it enjoyable to read. It’s a bit cynical, and I happen to like that factor. He asks the question in the poem, “If you could have sex with any movie star
for twenty-four straight hours who would you choose?”… I mean, it is an interesting question… Colin Farrell.