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Posts Tagged ‘Benjamin Landry’


My favorite recent poem in the New Yorker is “African Grey,” by Benjamin Landry in the June 15 issue. “Listening to the wind when you / have gone…an African Grey…who at night speaks…in your voice” It’s a poem about loss and the little reminders of those who are gone. “One picks up constantly after / the departed.” Such a spooky image, the voice of a loved one only heard now in the intonations of a bird, who may or may not have any scrap of the shared awareness we long for. And the changes that come upon us after such great change. “I try to move carefully, now…” A great poem.

In the same issue, “The Lordly Hudson,” by Adam Fitzgerald uses the repetition of the word ‘replacement’ for an incantatory effect. Paul Muldoon (the editor) seems to like repetition in poems. “After my family died there was a replacement family.” There are also enough strange little constructs in here to keep the odd among us happy. “the replacement version // doesn’t really do much for my replacement brain’s / chronic synaptic degradation.” I especially like those last three words. As a minimalist poet, this sort of work is not my strong suit, but I can appreciate those who do it well. The ending of this poem seems especially tangential, but I liked it.

In the June 22 issue, “Poem in the Manner of William Wordsworth,” by David Lehman, also uses repetition. “I ran with the wind like a boy…when joy surrounded me like an ocean…thus was born my theory of joy.” The references to Wordsworth are not elusive: “a hill of high altitude…” “lonelier than a cloudless sky.” And having read Muldoon’s book, The End Of The Poem, this poem seems very much filled with what he likes — references to a canonical poet as examined from a different angle.

Finally, extending our discussion of repetition, Cecily Parks gives us “Morning Instructions for the Doctor’s Wife,” which again brings in much repetition of phrase: “Accept the window / that gives you glass, the dawn / that gives you the maple branch…” The reader pictures someone sitting at the window, awake all night, as dawn slowly returns the sun. Parks creates theses and then develops them: “Only at certain times / can the body be sexual. The doe…in the meadow / isn’t sexual. When surgeons split / the coughing man’s chest…his body wasn’t sexual.” Another technique here is the use of words with similar sounds in close juxtaposition. Split and scalpel here, Curtains and certain. It’s not quite rhyming, but it brings a unity of sound. Interesting techniques. This is a poem to mull over for me, yielding more upon more thought.”

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

My eBook of poems, Against The Night, a sweet, rueful look at love in a long marriage, is available on Amazon, and at other fine e-retailers.

Related blog posts:

The New Yorker – Aug 21 17

The New Yorker – July 31 2017

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