Tag Archives: A. E. Stallings

And so it is.

For this month’s Music post, I point you to A.E. Stallings again (and why not?), this time to  “Listening to Peter and the Wolf with Jason, Aged Three.”

I don’t know how she does it, is part of why I re-read Stallings, how she uses such formal (here rhyming triplets for goshsakes) forms but sounds so natural and contemporary so, yes I’ll say it (and why not?) accessible. Shouldn’t this poem be sort of boring? But it’s not.

It’s a small domestic moment, the action of “Listening to Peter and the Wolf with Jason, Aged Three,” taking place at present, and the detailed look it’s given, quite perfectly described — but not at length. I mean the moment, the listening to the music, the speaker’s reaction to the child’s grave and logical pronouncement, is not expanded to make some much larger point or dwelled upon philosophically, expounded or held up from all angles. Continue reading

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“Country Song”

This year’s monthly series focus will be on music poems (2012 was Months poems and 2013 was Animals). First up, the incomparable A.E. Stallings’ “Country Song” from her collection Olives.

“Death was something that hadn’t happened yet,” is how it starts, one of the many lines which does many things at once. Death was something that hadn’t happened yet, in the song? to the speaker? The answer to both being yes. Another line that does similar multitasking comes just a few later, “It seeped up through the dashboard’s oubliette.” What does, the “hour of broken luck” in the line just before? Death from the first line? The country song? All of the above, even though grammatically of course the subject of that sentence Continue reading

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Technology

One of the many reasons I admire A.E. Stallings’ “Sestina: Like” and Bruce Beasley’s “Year’s End Paradoxography” so much is that the modern technology/modern world is integrated in those two poems in the way farmland or city streets or the human body are in so many other poems — thoroughly, and as metaphor, and amongst other topics, and not called out per se, and in ways that feel (though only time will tell on this point) like the poems will survive with their strengths intact even after the technology they engage with has moved into obsolescence.

Based on my admittedly totally unscientific general sense of the poetry I myself read, a flip through the Best American 2012 anthology, and some poking about this week in the searchable online poem databases of the Poetry Foundation and The Academy of American Poets, I feel I can say (until proven otherwise — please feel free to bring my attention to other poems in the comments box below) that current-day technology doesn’t show up as much in contemporary poems as you’d think it would. Continue reading

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A.E. Stallings’ Olives

A.E. Stallings writes lovely poems. Lovely poems that are also of the gritty real, but they look at the world through clear, feeling but not crying, eyes. A classicist by training, she works in rhyme-and-meter forms (with the sort of deft touch that kind of makes all this free verse emphasis feel silly), and she’s won a number of awards, including a MacArthur “Genius” grant. Her poems tend to balance as equally well the demands of emotion and intellect as they do form and content.

Olives, published in 2012, has poems about ancient Greece, poems about daily life, poems about motherhood and children, poems about arguments and olives and telephones. When one, as one does, starts to talk about “the state of contemporary poetry,” her books should be part of the argument for a strong state of contemporary poetry, full as they are of both fine craft and thought.

Her poems are also often funny (it’s really tempting here to make some sort of joke about an archaic smile, but I won’t). The first section of “Four Fibs” (the form of which uses the Fibonacci sequence to determine the number of syllables per line) for instance, goes, Continue reading

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