I am a picky poem reader. I don’t like flowery poems, or very long ones. Same goes for experimental ones, or ones that seem to be about nothing (or are they about everything?) I hate dramatic poems, and ones overloaded with too much feeling. Too intense! And I especially dislike my habit of diligently plodding through boring verses because I felt obligated to the poem to finish it. That’s just unfair, I didn’t know the poem was going to be dull when I started it.
I like poems that are simple and sincere, and I like them when they’re fairly short. I don’t like cutesy ones, but I do like playful ones. It’s kind of a miracle when a small string of words can conjure up a potent image in your head, or stirs a feeling that takes its time to fade away. It makes me think of how Barthes describes punctum when looking at a photograph. You just need one little idiosyncratic thing to make that connection, and then it’s magic from there.
The young people I work with LOVE poems, and have got me interested in them again. At the library, I found a book of poems I really like, called “Fire in the Soul: 100 Poems for Human Rights” published by Amnesty International. It’s really good. Many of the poems were composed in prison camps, or during or after experiences of war, political expulsion, and gender apartheid. Or they were written by people facing oppression in less overt form. Either way, here are three I liked the best:
Love – Visar Zhiti (Albania)
How far my night is
from your night!
Other nights rise between like uncrossable mountains.
I sent the road out for you. But it didn’t find you.
It grew weary and returned to me.
I sent out the roebuck of my song. But
The hunters shot it and, wounded
it returned to me.
I don’t know which direction the wind took. It got lost
In the trees and in the caverns of pain, and returned to me, blinded.
Rain is falling, robbed of hope.
Tomorrow when day breaks, shall I send out a rainbow
To look for you? Though, as naive as joy itself,
It can only cross one mountain.
I shall set out in the night myself.
I shall search, I shall search, I shall search
Like a hand groping in the darkness of a room,
to find an extinguished candle.
Irregular Verbs – Aquiles Nazoa (Venezuela)
These are some verbs, that at a snail’s pace
As without constitutional guarantees all become inhibited
I don’t write
You don’t write
He doesn’t write
For to write the things that one holds in one’s head
I am arrested
You are arrested
He is arrested
A Will – Fatiha Morchid (Morroco)
To you my little daughter
The ringing of the murmurs
The sad laughter
The ecstasy of scents
When my youth wandered away
All the paths
I never trod
All the waves…
I never struggled with
Fear O my dear
Is the sailor’s enemy
All the fruit
My hands forbore