I debated whether I should move now to poets who have won the Nobel Prize in Literature for their poetry since 1970 (Derek Walcott and Seamus Heaney today and Eugenio Montale and Joseph Brodsky tomorrow was what I had in mind. I really like the little I have read of Wislawa Szymborska too and really should have featured her along with Czeslaw Milosz when I posted his poems early in the month but in that first week I was not pairing two poets every day and so have missed the opportunity to feature Szymborska's poems in this month's National Poetry Month celebration.)

Time is short and I do not have the time this week to research the extensive ouvre of Heaney and Walcott or Montale and Brodsky and hence am going to post today about two poets who were born since 1970 i.e. poets of my generation, so to speak. I am not at all familiar with the poets of this generation but I recently read and really enjoyed some poems by Jill Alexander Essbaum and Terrance Hayes and hence thought I'd share their work today.


First up is Jill Alexander Essbaum, whose poems, the Poetry Foundation raves about as bringing together "sex, divinity, and wordplay, blithely working with received forms and displaying a nuanced attention to rhyme and meter" and a Coldfront magazine review lauds: "known for their remarkable mix of eroticism and religiosity, Jill Alexander Essbaum’s poems vibrate with well-proportioned rhymes, unforgettable imagery and a unique realization of form.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/uploads/authors/jill-alexander-essbaum/448x/jill-alexander-essbaum.jpg
Jill Alexander Essbaum (Born: ?, Bay City, TX)

And now to three of her poems:

by Jill Alexander Essbaum

The shift of sleepwalks and suicides.
The occasion of owls and a demi-lune fog.
Even God has nodded off

And won't be taking prayers till ten.
Ad interim, you put them on.   
As if your wants could keep you warm.

As if. You say your shibboleths.
You thumb your beads. You scry the glass.
Night creeps to its precipice

And the broken rim of reason breaks
Again. An obsidian sky betrays you.
Every serrate shadow flays you.

Soon enough, the crow will caw.
The cock will crow. The door will close.
(He isn't coming back, you know.)

And so wee, wet hours of grief relent.   
In thirty years you might forget
Precisely how tonight's pain felt.

And in whose black house you dwelt.


by Jill Alexander Essbaum
First
it is one day without you.

Then two.
And soon,

our point: moot.
And our solution, diluted.

And our class action (if ever was)
is no longer suited.

Wherewith I give to looting through
the war chest of our past

like a wily Anne Bonny
who snatches at plunder or graft.

But the wreck of that ransack,
that strongbox, our splintering coffer,

the claptrap bastard
of the best we had to offer,

is sog-soaked and clammy,
empty but for sand.

Like the knuckle-white cup
of my urgent, ghastly hands

in which nothing but
the ghost of love is held.

Damn it to hell.

And last but not least, this lovely poem from January 2011. 

Precipice
by Jill Alexander Essbaum

The border
of a thing.

Its edge
or hem.

The selvage,
the skirt,

a perimeter’s
trim.

The blow
of daylight’s

end and
nighttime’s

beginning.
A fence

or a rim,
a margin,

a fringe.
And this:

the grim,
stingy

doorstep
where

the lapse
of passage

happens.
That slim

lip of land,
the liminal

verge
that slips

you past
your brink.

Where
and when

you
blink.

And now moving on to a poet whose work won the 2010 National Book Award for Poetry last month - Terrance Hayes. About his work, Cornelius Eady has said: "First you'll marvel at his skill, his near-perfect pitch, his disarming humor, his brilliant turns of phrase. Then you'll notice the grace, the tenderness, the unblinking truth-telling just beneath his lines, the open and generous way he takes in our world."

 
Terrance Hayes (Born: November 18 1971, Columbia, South Carolina) 
 (Photograph: (C) Victoria Smith, via Poetry Foundation website)

Read his poems aloud...

Lighthead's Guide To The Galaxy
by Terrance Hayes

Ladies and gentlemen, ghosts and children of the state,
I am here because I could never get the hang of Time.
This hour, for example, would be like all the others
were it not for the rain falling through the roof.
I’d better not be too explicit. My night is careless
with itself, troublesome as a woman wearing no bra
in winter. I believe everything is a metaphor for sex.
Lovemaking mimics the act of departure, moonlight
drips from the leaves. You can spend your whole life
doing no more than preparing for life and thinking,
“Is this all there is?” Thus, I am here where poets come
to drink a dark strong poison with tiny shards of ice,
something to loosen my primate tongue and its syllables
of debris. I know all words come from preexisting words
and divide until our pronouncements develop selves.
The small dog barking at the darkness has something to say
about the way we live. I’d rather have what my daddy calls
“skrimp.” He says “discrete” and means the street
just out of sight. Not what you see, but what you perceive:
that’s poetry. Not the noise, but its rhythm; an arrangement
of derangements; I’ll eat you to live: that’s poetry.
I wish I glowed like a brown-skinned pregnant woman.
I wish I could weep the way my teacher did as he read us
Molly Bloom’s soliloquy of yes. When I kiss my wife,
sometimes I taste her caution. But let’s not talk about that.
Maybe Art’s only purpose is to preserve the Self.
Sometimes I play a game in which my primitive craft fires
upon an alien ship whose intention is the destruction
of the earth. Other times I fall in love with a word
like somberness. Or moonlight juicing naked branches.
All species have a notion of emptiness, and yet
the flowers don’t quit opening. I am carrying the whimper
you can hear when the mouth is collapsed, the wisdom
of monkeys. Ask a glass of water why it pities
the rain. Ask the lunatic yard dog why it tolerates the leash.
Brothers and sisters, when you spend your nights
out on a limb, there’s a chance you’ll fall in your sleep.


The Blue Terrance
by Terrance Hayes

If you subtract the minor losses,
you can return to your childhood too:
the blackboard chalked with crosses,

the math teacher's toe ring. You
can be the black boy not even the buck-
toothed girls took a liking to:

the match box, these bones in their funk
machine, this thumb worn smooth
as the belly of a shovel. Thump. Thump.

Thump. Everything I hold takes root.
I remember what the world was like before
I heard the tide humping the shore smooth,

and the lyrics asking: How long has your door
been closed? I remember a garter belt wrung
like a snake around a thigh in the shadows

of a wedding gown before it was flung
out into the bluest part of the night.
Suppose you were nothing but a song

in a busted speaker? Suppose you had to wipe
sweat from the brow of a righteous woman,
but all you owned was a dirty rag? That's why

the blues will never go out of fashion:
their half rotten aroma, their bloodshot octaves of
consequence; that's why when they call, Boy, you're in

trouble. Especially if you love as I love
falling to the earth. Especially if you're a little bit
high strung and a little bit gutted balloon. I love

watching the sky regret nothing but its
self, though only my lover knows it to be so,
and only after watching me sit

and stare off past Heaven. I love the word No
for its prudence, but I love the romantic
who submits finally to sex in a burning row-

house more. That's why nothing's more romantic
than working your teeth through
the muscle. Nothing's more romantic

than the way good love can take leave of you.
That's why I'm so doggone lonesome, Baby,
yes, I'm lonesome and I'm blue. 

Clarinet
by Terrance Hayes

I am sometimes the clarinet
your parents bought
your first year in band,
my whole body alive
in your fingers, my one ear
warmed by the music
you breathe into it.
I hear your shy laugh
among the girls at practice.
I am not your small wrist
rising & falling as you turn
the sheet music,
but I want to be.
Or pinky bone, clavicle.
When you walk home  
from school, birds call
to you in a language
only clarinets decipher.
The leaves whistle
and gawk as you pass.
Locked in my skinny box,
I want to be at least
one of the branches
leaning above you.
I will leave you with this video (48 minutes!) of Terrance Hayes reading his poetry at Cornell University: http://www.cornell.edu/video/poet-terrance-hayes

Enjoy!

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