Anyway, I'm not all the way through with it, being a slow reader, but let me put in a little plug for Poetry: if you don't subscribe, you should. It's a fantastic publication. It has something for everyone in almost every issue. Also the layout is fantastic, so even if you didn't think you liked modern poetry, the pure splendor of typface and expansive margins will spell love for you.
If you read nothing else, I'm going to put in my vote with Betsy and say that Steve Gehrke's "The New Self" is totally a must-read. It's phenomenal, and don't let its length put you off: the work's cadence and rhyme pulls you along the ripples in the spring rush of a river. You'll find yourself tapping your foot like a swimmer's strokes.
The poem's musicality--never overwhelming--belies its anguish. I won't tell you what it's about; that would spoil the fun, but this is introspection at it's best. (Speaking of introspection, have you read Wislawa Szymborska's "In Praise of Feeling Bad About Yourself"? I'll paste it at the end of this. Consider this a teaser to get you to read the whole post.) The poem is about guilt, or as my pal Jung might say (I've been reading a lot of him this summer) "being at variance with oneself." Introspection easily implodes into self-pity, and the brilliance of this poem is the way Gehrke unmasks the games of blame and self-victimization with which we try to absolve ourselves from responsibility for this strange other which is none other than us. "And it is funny, isn't it," he writes--and here the poem turns itself inside out and exposes itself, leading to its phenomenal second half,
the way that which starts as confession endsI read once that the key to a great poem is a great line, that most of the celebrated poems in history have that one razor sharp edge that cuts all the way to the end of brilliance into the sublime. Okay, so I'm not going to get carried away with myself--I'm trying, really--but I will say that this poem is stuffed with great lines which are both aweful in their insight and masterful in their language. He writes, "...the self / I am keeps evading the curses of the self / I meant to be...." Darn you, Steve Gehrke. Why couldn't I have written that? How dare you.
in blame, this constant search
for the marionettist of your brain, the ghost
who stole the controls to your soul.
Betsy, I think the "jeweler's bluff" bit at the end is precisely about the ways in which Gehrke tries to use language--really excuses--to veil his own culpability, and the words reveal his bad faith. I have no idea what a "jeweler's bluff," is, though. I tried to Google it (a word, by the way, which somehow--again I say curse, you Steve--actually pulls off). No go. The internet failed me. Back to the point, Betsy, I think what he's doing here is basically what Tony Hoagland is saying in "There Is No Word" a few pages before: "how there are some holes [language] will not cover up; / how it will move, if not inside, then / around the circumference of almost anything", etc.
At any rate, I started to scan and try to get a handle on the rhym scheme (if there is a scheme) to delve deeper into analysis and whatnot, and then I realized I'm not in college any more and I just sat back and read the thing again. I humbly suggest you, dear reader, do the same. I don't think you'll regret it.
P.S. I know some of you are also subscribers to Poetry. Can we please get a conversation about this going? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
In Praise of Feeling Bad About Yourself
by Wislawa SzymborskaThe buzzard never says it is to blame.
The panther wouldn't know what scruples mean.
When the piranha strikes, it feels no shame.
If snakes had hands, they'd claim their hands were clean.
A jackal doesn't understand remorse.
Lions and lice don't waver in their course.
Why should they, when they know they're right?
Though hearts of killer whales may weigh a ton,
in every other way they're light.
On this third planet of the sun
among the signs of bestiality
a clear conscience is Number One.