Everyone talks about the “great health” of American poetry nowadays. And it’s hard to fault that. There are very few bad poems being published, very few. On the other hand, there are very few really good ones, either, ones that might make you want to stick your fingers in the Cuisinart, saying, Take me now, Lord, take me now. The way I felt about Lowell and Roethke and Berryman back in my green time. And early Creeley and the sixties’ Merwin. O, there is lots of moving the language around the page (and, I guess, in the mind), there is much whippy, snippy, “gotcha” kind of stuff, alternately interesting, alternately ho-hum. We seem to be in The Great Joyful Swamp of still water and rotting trees, all of the “isms” circled around just ready to have the ground go out from under their feet and add themselves to the watery complacency. We need a kraken to rise up and scare the piss out of us into what’s in our hearts and whatever Urge it is that constitutes the soul. We need a nonverbal turbulence, a force, in our poems. We need to have the night and darkness and some real sharp teeth to take the hurly-burly out of our heads and stuff it into our veins. Though Language is always Capo, sometimes we need the Consigliere to whisper in its ear—Time to go to the mattresses, Don Carlo, time for a new poetry con coglioni. Let’s let the frills and cleverness dance by themselves. Over there, in and among the gum trees. And the water cypress. No more “whatever.” Now the sharp blade. After all, it’s been a hundred years, you know.
Elly Bookman, Contributor. Elly Bookman's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, The Journal, Passages North, Cimarron Review, and elsewhere. She was the recipient of the first annual Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize from American Poetry Review, and was featured in Rattle's Poet's Respond Series. Originally from downtown Atlanta, Elly teaches middle school in Wilmington, North Carolina.