Among the Things He Does Not Deserve
Greek olives in oil, fine beer, the respect of colleagues,
the rapt attention of an audience, pressed white shirts,
just one last-second victory, sympathy, buttons made
to resemble pearls, a pale daughter, living wages, a father
with Italian blood, pity, the miraculous reversal of time,
a benevolent god, good health, another dog, nothing
cruel and unusual, spring, forgiveness, the benefit
of the doubt, the next line, cold fingers against his chest,
rich bass notes from walnut speakers, inebriation, more ink,
a hanging curve, great art, steady rain on Sunday, the purr
of a young cat, the crab cakes at their favorite little place,
the dull pain in his head, the soft gift of her parted lips.
from The Boatloads
BOA Editions, 2008
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I've posted 'list poems' before, so I'm sure the idea won't be new to you, but it's true that they look easier to create successfully than they actually are . We need to find the right rhythm to carry the reader through the poem, the right blend of imagery (precise or general, concrete or abstract), general comment or statement, and, at the end, the reader needs to feel as if they've been exposed to more than just a list. There might be a sense of revelation, or surprise, or an insight into someone's experience that, somehow, informs our own.
I've read Dan Albergotti's poem several times and I'm still not exactly sure of what's behind it, e.g. is the 'he' of the title the narrator speaking about himself? But that doesn't matter to me because there's so much in the poem that speaks so clearly to me.
Here are a just a couple of things that stood out for me, but I could talk about every line:
1. The rhythm in line 2 that's broken into two parts - read it aloud and hear the precision and care contained in those three one syllable wordsthe of the final image: pressed white shirts
2. the miraculous reversal of time: coming after the title, and after the reading the poem to the end, then reading this abstract image again gives me that sense of regret that I've felt now and again in my life... if only I could go back an hour, a week, a year. Has everyone felt that dread at sometime in their lives?
3. How it begins and ends with food: greek olives, crab cakes. But that's probably just me - I love reading and writing about food :)
So onto your poem. Brainstorm for a title first - really brainstorm. Use the phrase - Among the things... and see what emerges when you write freely...
Among the things:
she'd like to forget
they never said
he said he'd never do
you will never miss
That's just off the top of my head... there must be dozens and dozens more.
Choose one and see where it leads you.
And here's a list poem of mine that was published a couple of years ago in the New Welsh Review:
Plump ‘Queens’ glistening in oil,
the size of small eggs, or little
beads of green stuffed with garlic, jalapeno,
or laced with herbs and sun-dried tomato,
or the glossy black ones we ate
in Juan Carlos’ bar on Carrer d’Albet
with white anchovies and litres of sweet cava
then walked home up Via Laietana
through Eixample, up Carrer
St Juan to the apartment we rented that year,
opposite the supermercado where I bought them in tins,
con huesos, or pitted – sin
huesos, the Spanish for olive pits and bones,
as I remember us then – our bodies
slipped free from their bones, the last time
we made love, the last time we made each other come.
I hardly ever write with a regular rhyme scheme but the rhyming couplets (mostly slant rhymes) felt right for the subject matter and music of the poem.
Write well. I look forward to reading your work.