In my youth I wrote poems, as I suspect many of us did. Bad poems. At some point, thankfully, I realised this and stopped. These days I write lines that always rhyme, occasionally scan, and for the most part are silly. I don’t grace them with the term ‘poetry’. Doggerel would be more accurate.
The thing about poetry is that it’s incredibly difficult to write. And the apparent ease of free verse is illusory because “no verse is free for the man who wants to do a good job” (T.S.Eliot). Which is why, on the whole, I stick these days to prose.
But I still have a taste for good poems and an admiration for those who write them. Several volumes are dotted around my random, unorganised book shelves, but I know where each one is and every so often, I dip into them. Poem are sips of a special brew that slakes a special thirst.
A few poems are scattered throughout the Rabbit Hole volumes. I would have liked more but we didn’t get that many poetry submissions, and when we did, they didn’t correspond to our (admittedly subjective) taste. Volume 0 has one by David Rogers (who also has an excellent story in Volume 2) and a couple by Mitchell Grabois, whose Arrest of Mr. Kissy Face vividly highlights the oddness of everyday moments; Boris Glikman’s clever and playful PS (In Memory Of) aptly appears at the end of the forthcoming (October 9th) Volume 3; Kelsey Dean’s Rabbit Hole Poems (one of which is below) are a delight in Volume 1.
Too often in my view, what’s put forward as a poem is a piece of prose with unconventional line breaks. These poems bring something more – a startling way with words, or an original insight, or a juxtaposition that reveals a hidden truth. When I started blogging, I discovered Robert Okaji. His poems don’t, as a rule, fall into the category of ‘weird’, and he never submitted to The Rabbit Hole, they have the subtle ingredient which slakes that special thirst. Don’t ask me what it is. If I knew, I might do it myself. As it is, I stick to doggerel.
Tea Party by Kelsey Dean
The sugar cubes cascaded down the tablecloth,
And “One lump or two?” asked the hatter –
but actually there were three
that lived and lumbered in the tissue.
“The doctors took them out with knives
and fixed her with needles,” I said.
“And there were tubes and tests tangled in her breasts.”
“How curious!” replied the hare.
I nodded and stacked the cubes neatly in my mouth
while the sparrows nested in my hair;
we sipped and slurped
and the violets twinkled at our toes.
“Another cup?” asked the hatter,
but it was quite the opposite, and I told him:
“No, a less cup actually, or two.”
“Curiouser and curiouser!” sang the hare.
Stone by David Rogers
No leaf left on any tree you can see from here.
It is good to have one’s darkest
You may keep secrets but you are not allowed
to choose which ones.
Some will be written on your tombstone
whispered over and over
by fallen leaves.
The thing you wanted everyone to know
will be forgotten.
Carve your own stone to say whatever you like
but beware survivors who may revise.
I’d rather trust the leaves:
the other day I met Ambrose Bierce walking
through the woods. I don’t mean his ghost.
The last thing he said to me was
“. . . before it’s too late.”
I’ve been trying
hard to remember the first part of the sentence.
That night I dreamed everyone I knew
wore masks that looked just like themselves.