Posts Tagged ‘C.L. O’Dell How Forever Works’

The first poem in the April 2 New Yorker is “How Forever Works,” a short poem by C.L. O’Dell. “The soft tick of snow / landing in its own body…” A very original way to look at snowfall. Looking out my window at the moment, seeing the (seemingly) endless snow, I appreciate the metaphor of snow as forever. It creates silence, it adds endlessly to itself, as the poem says, and it easily takes on form as a body. And that word tick references a clock, time passing. The poem takes different points of view, even inside its short self, a tricky ambition: “the world / remembered us…quietly.”
Then the final line takes even a different line, so creating a poem that requires much contemplation, and review, to enjoy to the fullest. We are left almost to think of ourselves as a dying memory, underground already perhaps, and a silent snow above. Erasing?

The other poem is “Who Knows One,” by Jane Shore, one of the most ambitious poems of recent years. “Who knows One. I know One. / One is God for God is One” it begins, and from this base she constructs the rest of the poem. It takes the form of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” each stanza starting with a consideration of the next larger number and then numerically decreasing, line by line, to the “One is God…” line. So we have, “Five is the five in ‘Slaughter-House Five.’ / Four is Egypt’s plague of flies” and so on. Many of the references are topical, or otherwise easily recognizable, some are common phrases. “Two can play that game.” This gives the reader reference points, so it isn’t all a tedious slog, and gives the poem a speedy pace that keeps us reading for the next reference, the next ‘aha’ moment. Only in the last stanza does the underlying subject of the poem reveal itself; when suddenly all those earlier references have a deeper meaning. So after the big reveal we want to reread the whole poem, seeing deeper meanings where we had seen commonplace phrases. That’s a great technique, very difficult to pull off, and one which rewards the reader deeply. I recommend you look this poem up as you can.

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 – March 19 2018

Rattle 59 – Spring 2018

The New Yorker – Jan 22 2018



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