Originally uploaded by mimbrava.
While poets argue among themselves about the relative virtues of "accessible" and "cutting edge," many people have stopped listening, stopped reading, stopped believing that most contemporary poetry makes a difference.
For me, when it comes to poetry, the only criterion that matters is this: does the poem give me something I need to have; does it tell me something I need to know; does it crook its metaphorical finger and lead me some place I've never been, but recognize instantly?
If it does those things, it doesn't much matter if it's plainspoken or abstruse. I'm following, I'm listening, I'm buying poetry books.
Mary Oliver recently selected Suzanne Frischkorn and Judith Valente for the Aldrich prize. In her introduction to the book that contains both their work, she says that what she looked for was "genuineness."
I particularly love this poem by Suzanne Frischkorn which opens the book:
A FRIEND ASKS, WHAT'S TO FORGIVE?
Forgive me, I can't name the scarlet birds
that dart through the bramble.
Forgive the marsh through the lace curtain--
Forgive the wood thrush, and the larkspur.
Forgive the incantation of crickets among burrs--
to each star and one moon.
Forgive me as I light candles for the living
And because I scrape wet stones
in search of happiness. And forgive
all the damp places, their echoes
their solitary drops of water.
Forgive the orchid, the only flower
And forgive the catmint,
the cosmos, and the black-eyed susans
for their tenacious grip on dry earth.
A copy of Suzanne's, Spring Tide and Judith Valente's Reinventing the Alphabet is available on Amazon, or through Suzanne's blog, Lit Windowpane.