I'm still reading New Yorkers. Years ago my friend also started sending me The Altantic and like the other magazine, I'm really behind. Here are the poetry related articles I've come across…
The Last Rock-Star Poet by James Parker (about Dylan Thomas)
The Poet Laureate of Englishness/A Poet for the Age of Brexit by Adam Kirsch (about A.E. Housman)
The Odyssey and the Other: What the epic can teach about encounters with strangers abroad and at Home
And I’ve been holding on to this gem of an article from Atlas Obscura for years: An Algorithmic Investigation of the Highfalutin “Poet Voice’ by Cara Giaimo. The author ponders the poetry reading and the sound of that wacky performance voice, “a slow, lilting delivery like a very boring ocean.” She opposes this to the similarly stilted NPR voice or Podcast voice.
Poems at Large
My monthly Birchbox subscription comes with five beauty product samples in a box with a card of instructions on how to use them all (because the bottle brandings are so Spartan and useless). There were poems in two of my recent boxes.
One box came with a special card inside. The card’s cover says “This is not a beauty box.” Except it totally is. The first inside page goes on to explain the company has learned that the world of beauty “is not simple” because their customers previously felt “overlooked by the entire industry because beauty isn’t their top priority” because they have kids and jobs and such. And then page two goes on to say the usual “you deserve time to take care of you, you, you.” It’s an annoying message because it completely contradicts the message on page one. Then, on the back is a poem called “You: A Poem” about how “This is for You./The best of you...” including all the synonyms of your feelings the marketing companies want you to associate with their product: joy, perfection, power, lovable, kick ass, essentially the “you, you always wanted to be.” The poem states, “You may be out of moisturizer,/but you’re not out of time” and “Because the best of you,/requires a little time, with you.” The poem ends with, “(For once it’s all about you)” (no end period).
Which makes the reference to “for once” a bit absurd. It’s always about you, that's why the poem has been added to my Birchbox. And that’s why we’re collectively losing our minds and killing each other out here.
Ok. Part of this is the Narcissism summit talking. Sounds True hosted a 10-day Understanding Narcissism conference, a 20+ hour conference on all aspects of cultural Narcissism. It was really great.
Inside another one of the recent boxes was a perfume sample of Like This (subtitled LEtat d’Orange and Immortal Ginger is also part of the label so I was pretty confused about what the title of the product really was) created by actress Tilda Swinton.
Anyway, the card containing the sample says the perfume was inspired by the poet Rumi with no explanation.
So I went online and found this page where the description of the perfume elaborates:
Etat Libre d’Orange launches a new fragrance in March 2010, second celebrity perfume in a row, this time inspired by the English actress Tilda Swinton. Her favorite scent is the scent of home, so she wanted a fragrance that will be a magical potion with that kind of smell. Mathilde Bijaoui created for her a composition of yellow tangerine, ginger, pumpkin, immortelle, Moroccan neroli, Grass rose, vetiver, heliotrope and musk.
"I have always located my favourite fragrances at the doorways of kitchens, in the heart of a greenhouse, at the bottom of a garden. Scent means place to me : place and state of mind - even state of grace. Certainly state of ease. My favourite smells are the smells of home, the experience of the reliable recognisable after the exotic adventure: the regular - natural - turn of the seasons, simplicity and softness after the duck and dive of definition in the wide, wide world.
When Mathilde Bijaoui first asked me what my own favourite scent in a bottle might contain, I described a magic potion that I could carry with me wherever I went that would hold for me the fragrance - the spirit - of home. The warm ginger of new baking on a wood table, the immortelle of a fresh spring afternoon, the lazy sunshine of my grandfather's summer greenhouse, woodsmoke and the whisky peat of the Scottish Highlands after rain. I told her about a bottle of spirit, something very simple, to me : something almost indescribable, so personal it should be. The miracle is that Mathilde made it.
The great Sufi poet Rumi wrote:
If anyone wants to know what "spirit" is,
or what "God’s fragrance" means,
lean your head toward him or her.
Keep your face there close.
It restores me like the smoke/rain/gingerbread/ greenhouse my scent-sense is fed by. It is a poem about simplicity, about human-scaled miracles. About trust. About home.
In my fantasy there is a lost chapter of Alice in Wonderland - after the drink saying Drink Me, after the cake pleading Eat Me - where the adventuring, alien, Alice, way down the rabbit hole, far from the familiar and maybe somewhat homesick - comes upon a modest glass with a ginger stem reaching down into a pale golden scent that humbly suggests : Like This…"
Here is the Rumi poem in its entirety:
If anyone asks you
how the perfect satisfaction
of all our sexual wanting
will look, lift your face
When someone mentions the gracefulness
of the nightsky, climb up on the roof
and dance and say,
If anyone wants to know what 'spirit' is,
or what 'God’s fragrance' means,
lean your head toward him or her.
Keep your face there close.
When someone quotes the old poetic image
about clouds gradually uncovering the moon,
slowly loosen knot by knot the strings
of your robe.
If anyone wonders how Jesus raised the dead,
don’t try to explain the miracle.
Kiss me on the lips.
Like this. Like this.
When someone asks what it means
to 'die for love,' point
If someone asks how tall I am, frown
and measure with your fingers the space
between the creases on your forehead.
The soul sometimes leaves the body, the returns.
When someone doesn’t believe that,
walk back into my house.
When lovers moan,
they’re telling our story.
I am a sky where spirits live.
Stare into this deepening blue,
while the breeze says a secret.
When someone asks what there is to do,
light the candle in his hand.
How did Joseph’s scent come to Jacob?
How did Jacob’s sight return?
A little wind cleans the eyes.
When Shams comes back from Tabriz,
he’ll put just his head around the edge
of the door to surprise us
And I loved this New Yorker cartoon and have kept it for a while and I'm ready to throw it out now:
"They rifled through our drawers, ransacked our closets, and completely redeveloped the central character in Carltron’s novel.”
And finally, a Tom Jones poem my friend Julie sent me a while ago because we're always on the lookout for pop-culture poetry, "Because I cannot remember my first kiss" by Roger Bonair-Agard.
But who doesn't remember their first kiss?