July 06, 2007

The Beginning of a Poem

Even as I write these words,
I know that critics will insist
that the poem doesn't begin here.
"For me," each will say, "this poem
really begins in the [much later] stanza..." --
and of course, they will be right.
Yet this poem has already begun.
What can I do about it?

For a poem squats on one's tongue
as stubbornly as garlic.
Any critic still reading (I don't know
why a critic would still be reading)
will have thought the poem was about to begin
with the garlicky squatter, an image,
after all. But if the critic is still
with us, he or she knows that the poem
has not yet begun. Why not? Does this poem
despise critics? Love to tease them?
Surely it can be written for no one else --
who else would care?

I begin to suspect that this poem
never will begin -- the REAL poem,
that is. So it may as well begin
anywhere -- and so it does!

The observant critic who is still with us
(that optimistic "us"!) will have noted
that the poem, such as it is or might be,
really ended, for any reasonable reader,
at the close of the last stanza,
a punchline, of a sort. This critic
will advise cutting the current stanza
as superfluous (or, just to be kind,
will suggest saving it for another poem),
saying, "for me the poem ends with
'and so it does!'" And, indeed, so it ought.
However -- and it pains me to have to say this,
having been helped so often by generous advice
from critics -- nonetheless, the poem --
if poem it be -- ends here.

[The poem is gone. It's over. Go home. Think about
something else.]

—Dean Blehert

Posted by dwaber at July 6, 2007 11:36 AM