Friday, March 4, 2016

"The flame beneath the pot"

Beautiful language can reach right off the page and startle you into a wide-awake, pleased wonderment, like a sudden kiss from someone you have a huge crush on. I read poetry in the hopes that I'll get that shivery rush.

Yesterday's Writer's Almanac poem, "Lobsters," by Howard Nemerov, did it. Even though the lovely turns of phrase are mostly morbid, I was enchanted with the powerful simplicity of the language.

By GrammarFascist (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

These lines in the second stanza made me want to applaud: "Their velvet colors / Mud red, bruise purple, cadaver green." The perfection of the phrase "mud red": it simultaneously brings to mind "blood red" and also that absolutely correct muddy ochre color of lobsters. "Cadaver green" is a horribly delicious (sorry) irony, describing creatures whose bodies won't last long enough to be called cadavers.

The ending of the poem is very Yeats-ian, very "what rough beast," to me, but maybe that's because I just finished reading The Stand for perhaps the tenth time. (King seems to have turned this poem of 22 lines into a novel of over 1,000 pages). I won't spoil it; go read the poem.

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