Sunday, April 15, 2012

Rosalind Brackenbury: Poety in a time of War

I enjoyed this Wislawa Szymborska-type poem written by an American (well, actually a British-born author living in America). It was the Academy of American Poets' Poem of the Day.

Szymborska, like other Eastern European poets of her generation that survived both communist and fascist dictatorships, found her liberation in an unadorned style, free of the kind of rhetorical flourish she associated with demagoguery - a style that expressed ironies of her times in the coldest, hardest, simplest way.

It’s a measure of the temper of our own times that this kind of poetry is being written (by someone at least) over here in North America.


I want to forget their names, the generals,
advisors, puppet rulers,
the puffed-up and the brought-low,

I want not to know them,
not hear their plans, their excuses,
the President and the President's men,
the Pope with his white smoke for voodoo,

the suits, ties, teeth, insignia,
the guns, the names of trucks and weapons.

I want to forget them all,
to be washed of them,
to begin again: where no one knows who anyone is,
or what he believes.

To give my attention to:
frangipani leaves uncurling,
the smell of jasmine,
one person helping another across a street;

to the seeds,
to the beginnings; to one clear word for which
there is no disguise and no alternative.

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