Non-prose narrative poetry from Erik’s 2018 collection.
Get a Pet with a Longer Lifespan Than Humans Have
Get a pet with a longer lifespan than humans have. Treat yourself to a minimal expectation of sorrow for once. Think of your children inheriting $36 plus a venerable pet, and how this will assuage their grief. Let it gaze at you in that easy way the immortals have. ‘For you, eerie friend, I’ll never cry and never pity,’ you’ll say. And with the psychic energy you’ll save, you can know yourself ten percent better or learn to keep bees.
The Contentment Poem
So the lawnmower ran out of fuel halfway through the mow revealing in the two-toned, two-height fescue grass my tendency to cut a backwards L or a flat J absentmindedly as I pootle along the lawn, which now is the despair of neighbourhood dogs who live at lawn-height, and also of their owners, whom I’m suspicious of because they’re never at lawn-height or dog-height or human-height, instead surveying the street from the level of summer clouds; anyway, these owners, seeing what I’ve done to maintain our private sward in the expected way, and seeing what looks like a sudden, small dogleg golf hole with equal parts rough and vaguely inviting fairway, and knowing a little of what I’m like from passing me by semi-voluntarily every week of their lives, these owners may think, just may think, I’ve got the garden just how I like it and that, obviously, is just how I like it.
The Family Lore Poem
On Christmas Day, 1930, my father’s uncle, Willie Dowall, then a striker for Motherwell FC, got the call that made him not-a-striker for Motherwell FC, but not a former player of Motherwell FC either. And so he moved along the path that saw him finally able to hold down a place as Motherwell’s right back in 1931–32, a versatile man in a memorable year, when half of Lanarkshire whooped it up for the Well winning the league, and half of Lanarkshire was raddled and out of work, and the third half were Hamilton Academical fans. The player who replaced him at the front, another Willie— because every Scottish William was a Willie the moment he laced up boots to run on grass, even (or especially) when he was called Bill in England— the gunstock-jawed Willie MacFadyen, still holds the Scottish league single-season scoring record (52). Please let all the less accomplished strikers form an orderly queue. You know what they say: like holding a cat’s paw, accepting the greatness of others should be easy, but it’s hard. The thirties became the forties, rivalries became hostilities, and Willie died before the championship team reunion, many years later, a time for the boys to think through how they used their bodies to strike or save when all the men still smoked, and some of the steelworks did, too.
It’s funny to be here on a flash fiction site introducing pieces from my book of poems that’s entirely in verse when I have also written a chapbook that’s entirely prose poems. I feel like I’ve been invited to a potluck dinner party and been asked to bring a main – and I’ve brought a dessert. Or I’ve gone to the wrong house.
But I am not the only who gets confused. ‘Our habitual expectation when we see a passage of prose is that it will explain, not sing,’ Jeremy Noel-Tod writes in his introduction to The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem, a book that serves as a testament to the singing voice of prose. For right now, I have the opposite project. I hope that this little selection of poems from my book There’s No Place Like the Internet in Springtime (Victoria University Press, 2018) will show off the explaining voice of poetry.
I get profound enjoyment and satisfaction out of the work of good storytelling poets – I’ve been reading James Tate, Sinéad Morrissey and Stephen Dobyns lately, for example – although it’s not something I do very well myself. These poems aren’t ‘stories’. But I think it is fair to say that they are explanations, analyses, dissections. There are narratives here, but the narratives are not the point. I have been told that my tendency to scrutinise in my poems is a weakness. I have been told that it’s a strength. What I’m not usually told is that it’s unusual. I suspect it is. If I were to blurb There’s No Place Like the Internet in Springtime myself, I might say something like: ‘The collisions of the digital and the pastoral, the cutting-edge and the obsolete, are inspected closely as Kennedy looks at the world in the back of a spoon. By turns eerily observant and breathtakingly oblivious, this is a book for anyone who has never been bored because problems of interest are all around us.’
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