Wednesday, April 30, 2008

BillyBlog's Favorite Poems, #1 ("Bantams in Pine-Woods" by Wallace Stevens)

Well, here we are. The last day of April, National Poetry Month, 2008.

I have spent the last thirty days counting down my favorite thirty, then thirty-one, poems.

I have not claimed they were the thirty-one best, just the thirty-one, from different poets, that I liked the most.

Some you may have seen before, and some may be new. I hope that the vast readership out there enjoyed this exercise.

Then again, no one guessed who my favorite poem was by, so I can almost hear the echoes of my own grandiosity deflating in the blogosphere.

So, without further ado, I will praise the greatness of Wallace Stevens, whose The Palm at the End of the Mind, I studied in a Contemporary American Poetry class my junior year in college.

I don’t have any signed Stevens books, but I do have a hardcover first edition of The Plam at the End of the Mind, published seventeen years after Stevens’ death in 1955. I cherish it because the appreciation of a great poet that it represents.

I can think of a dozen poems that really rock my brain, many of which are here.

See, especially, “Anecdote of the Jar,” and “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”.

But, my all-time favorite Stevens poem is “Bantams in Pine-Woods”. It reads almost like nonsense, but it paints such a vivid, anthropomorphic scene that I often quote segments in my ongoing inner dialogue with the world. The small, proud bantam challenging the rooster in the wild. But the poem, as so deftly explained in its wikipedia entry, is a metaphor for American poetry.

Bantams in Pine-Woods

Chieftain Iffucan of Azcan in caftan
Of tan with henna hackles, halt!

Damned universal cock, as if the sun
Was blackamoor to bear your blazing tail.

Fat! Fat! Fat! Fat! I am the personal.
Your world is you. I am my world.

You ten-foot poet among inchlings. Fat!
Begone! An inchling bristles in these pines,

Bristles, and points their Appalachian tangs,
And fears not portly Azcan nor his hoos.

Stevens is best read aloud. Do it. Go back and read it out loud in front of the computer screen. And try not to smile. And see if you can feel your feathers ruffling in indignation.

So there we have it - my top 31. I think BillyBlog has had enough of poetry for a while. Thanks for coming a long for the ride!

Previous Favorite Poems for National Poetry Month:

#2 - "Self-Dependence" by Matthew Arnold
#3 - "The Garden of Earthly Delights" by Charles Simic
#4 - "we ain't got no money, honey, but we got rain" by Charles Bukowski
#5 - "Garbage" by A.R. Ammons
#6 - "Rock and Hawk" by Robinson Jeffers
#7 - "Nostalgia" by Billy Collins
#8 - "A Piece of the Storm" by Mark Strand
#9A - "The Colonel" by Carolyn Forché and
#9B - "may i feel said he" by e.e.cummings

#10 - "After Making Love We Hear Footsteps" by Galway Kinnell
#11 - "Symposium" by Paul Muldoon
#12 - "Poem for the Class of..." by Max Eberts
#13 - "Boss of the Food" by Lois-Ann Yamanaka
#14 - "Lady Lazarus" by Sylvia Plath
#15 - "One Art" by Elizabeth Bishop
#16 - "Buddhist Barbie" by Denise Duhamel
#17 - "One Train May Hide Another" by Kenneth Koch
#18 - "Poem (Lana Turner Has Collapsed!) by Frank O'Hara (with Audio)
#19 - "Crumbs" by Hal Sirowitz (Audio Added)
#20 - "This Is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams
#21 - "They Feed They Lion" by Philip Levine
#22 - "Looking at Kilauea" by Garret Hongo
#23 - "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" by Randall Jarrell (Audio Added)
#24 - A Handful of Richard Brautigan
#25 - "A Buddha in the Woodpile" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
#26 - "Separation" by W.S. Merwin
#27 - "The Flea" by John Donne
#28 - Poem Twenty from Pablo Neruda's Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair
#29 - "Magpie's Song" by Gary Snyder
#30 - "Eunoia" by Christian Bok

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