“First Born, Last Born” by A.E. Stallings

Check this out, over at Unsplendid. 

What I love about this poem is its perfect combination of wit and poignancy. Cleverness is often called out as a weakness in poems, either because it detracts from the communication of feeling or because the critic derides it as a matter of course. I don’t know what to say to the critic who will stomach no wit whatsoever, but I can say that, in the case of this poem, wit and sentiment perform a breathtaking balancing act. Phrases like “Your firsts were first” might be too clever without the balance provided by “We bit our lips if you were ever slow/to reach some milestone….” Conversely, if all the poem had to offer was this lip-biting, without the biblical allusions of “In the beginning” and “Your alphas are omegas”–it would perhaps descend into mawkishness. I’ve been a fan of Stallings since her debut collection, Archaic Smile, and this sonnet is a beautiful addition to her work.

“The Millihelen” by Matthew Olzmann

I would like to launch this blog by sharing a poem about the launching of ships. Several of my friends on Facebook shared this poem yesterday, and I have been reading it over and over. I love how it takes a little fragment of the linguistic whirlwind that is our current cultural climate (an entry from Urban Dictionary!) and expounds upon it, expanding it from clever shard of language into a whole world all its own. On top of that, Olzmann manages to employ Achilles, Odysseus, and the gang without resorting to a tired repetition of the same old stories. My favorite moment in the poem: “it sails/straight out of history into a night so unknowable,/not even the blind eyes of Homer can guess where it will land.” That, to me, is pure ars poetica. Sailing into the unknown.

Here is the link to the poem, published on The Drunken BoatOlzmann’s other contribution to the issue, “Wreckage Gallery,” also deserves your full attention. And his reading voice is golden.