Saturday, September 25, 2010

Afterlife and Where the Rain Slips Through

How long is a group of poetry lovers willing to wait for the poet to show up?

In the case of poet Colin Cheney, it was about three quarters of an hour, but, in fairness to him, he mistakenly thought that the reading was at 4:00 rather than 3:00.

Silly poet, Chop Suey's Saturday readings are always at 3.

Darren Morris began with a poem about an intersection, where one week a truck jack-knifed and spilled watermelons everywhere and the following week another jack-knifed and spilled pigs everywhere.

Apparently pigs eating rotten watermelons was disturbing to passersby as well as poem-worthy.

"Poets don't tend to be sports fans," he said as a way of introducing his poem about baseball in the afterlife.

The poem "Battery" contained my favorite line: "Naivete has always been my best quality."

I can't count the number of people in my life who have commented on my naivete, although I'm never told that it's a good quality.

Afterlife was the recurring theme in Morris' poetry, mainly he said, because he doesn't see it as black and white as heaven or hell, but more interactive.

As the writer who had selected Colin Cheney for the National Poetry series, VCU's David Wojahn introduced the poet he had found "eccentric, quirky and deeply weird" and likened his book Here Be Monsters to a map.

Cheney's poetry was indeed beautifully weird. Introducing "Decline of the North American Songbird," he said, "I think that's what you need to know. I'm going to butcher the German language."

Noting that he lives part-time in Bangkok, Cheney said that his wife, who was presently sleeping there, had requested that he read "Watson the Shark," based on the John Singleton Copley painting of the man about to be eaten by a shark and "the instant before whatever happens happened."

The original hangs in the National Gallery of Art and a copy in Boston, where Cheney grew up seeing it.

On rainy days, he said his Mom would take the family to stand in front of the painting, which terrified him (as did the original in the NGA whenever I saw it as a child).

The beauty is that that terror eventually became the inspiration for a poem, and not a terrifying one.

The closest we got to terrifying today was Morris' evocative reference to "an almost profane fear of being alone, loneliness."

As a friend and I were just discussing earlier today, busyness can be a mask for loneliness.

But that's a subject for another day.


  1. for instance, i would never have guessed you were considered naive. serious. anyway, here's a link i thought you might enjoy reading:

  2. Oh, the witnesses I could bring who have chided me for my naivete would include exes and friends dating back to college.

    It's always about my rose-colored interpretations of the intentions of your sex.

    I did enjoy your link. As a ten-year old seeing it for the first time, all I could focus on was the nudity and blood and that made it awfully memorable.

  3. yes, well, my sex's intentions are generally rose-colored. it's not your naivety, it's just your word order.

    i didn't notice the blood but i did notice the shark's nose, and well, the nudity because i thought "well, why are his clothes off if his skin's so pale? he doesn't belong in the ocean!"

  4. My word order, eh? That was the biggest laugh you've given me thus far.

    He's probably wearing SPF 85.