Thursday, April 10, 2008

Today's First Poem

Meaning there will be two. The first is "Mariana Trench: 35,827 feet" by Joanna Klink. It's too long to reproduce here, so if you want to follow anything I'm about to say, I suggest you find a copy of her collection Circadian.

The poem is in free verse, but it's not a prose poem. At times it describes the famous Marianas Trench, the deepest part of the ocean, the lowest place on Earth. At other times, it describes the "birds grazing sheets of surface burning over the trench, as if to trespass for seconds into/ the blackness below". There is also a couple, sharing something -- a discussion, an argument, maybe just a moment. There's lots of imagery of surfaces: "birds grazing sheets of surface", "sweater/pulled over skin still pulses with the sun", "a hand passes over the serrated stems". In fact, the poem is full of tactile imagery, "feeling the bones spread beneath the skin." The poem suggest a couple of meanings of depth. The depth of the ocean, obviously, but also the vernacular meaning, "descending in the blue-grays/of your eyes, the slow spread of depth toward some unfelt soundless sediment".

There are couple of things I find interesting about the poem. One, the description of the birds, flying over the water above the trench. Obviously, she could've gone in the other direction and written of the fish or the mysterious creatures in the deep. But she didn't. She chose to describe "the bright explosions/ of their wings, now gliding in some far sense of air, a limit bathed in dusk/leaning beachward". The deep remains "unrecognizable." Is there something unrecognizable about the people as well? I think there is: "my body shut in your arms, refusing conclusion, feeling the bones spread/beneath skin". There's intimacy, and while we can feel it, we're not really let all the way inside it. I like that.

I like this poem, although I don't completely understand it. My favorite line is "an apology forming near the boundary, tense, lost, veins/full of salt-vapor". Joanna Klink teaches at the University of Montana, and this is her second book of poetry.

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