I discovered a new poet, Kyle McCord, two days ago on, where else, VerseDaily. His poem "I Write You This on a Train Named for an Endangered Bird" is pasted below. The poem surely isn't simple or trite, but its full comprehension still eludes me--I grasp the premise, several of the metaphors, cherish the newness in some of the lines, but I feel as if there's something grander which is still just beyond my reach.
The premise for the poem is extraordinary--the perennial question: how to begin the poem/story/etc. And this one begins by not beginning in a way, an irony I fully appreciate. From a teaching perspective it seems it would be simple to include in a creative writing class since it's structured perfectly in the beginning and develops organically, that is until the poem namedrops Hamlet and then rushes past a perfect analogy that could have been developed much further. Why leave the idea of fighting for the dead as a way to not begin a poem, because isn't that how Shakespeare began? Why not discuss it or riff off of it? Fight for the dead to come back? Isn't that the premise of so many stories? What about the idea of dooming something/someone (mainly the protagonist) from the onset of the story? But, as consolation, he does riff off the idea of the living having enough problems--both humans, then animals, and especially those (on the extinction death row) noted for their dwindling numbers. Then he riffs on the idea of stories starting and never developing the way one hopes (paralleled so smartly in the party mishap). After this point I get what McCord intends, and I love the idea of refusing to admit that the symbolic and obligatory act of placing certain sacraments atop a grave is anything but impulsive and pre-planned and perhaps without emotion, and that it fits so well into the ideas presented earlier on; but still, I wait for another deeper, more moving objective correlative connection to blossom.
But before I end, I must make mention of the title. Something I have been striving to do in my work is to create titles that fit metaphorically in with one of the ideas of the poem but which do not necessarily make an ideal name for the poem. This poem does this. I admire the way it relates back to the metaphor of the extinct animals whose time is dwindling, much as the poem's time to connect with the reader is dwindling, and simultaneously how long/well the poem has to develop/can develop is also dwindling.
Overall, a solid and interesting poem which delves into the human psyche, the mechanisms by which writers write and readers read.
I Write You This on a Train Named for an Endangered Bird
There are ways a story can't begin. Like pitting your protagonist
against an all-knowing, all-seeing jaguar spirit.
Or, worse, against an abstraction—like immorality or human unhappiness.
It could be argued that Hamlet's vengeance was doomed from the outset
because you can't fight for the dead, only against the living
who have enough problems as it is. Your Canadian brother-in-law
unemployed, rubs his knuckles while he sleeps.
A whole range of unadorable animals are on the docket for extinction.
I've identified some plot problems here. Like on New Year's
when Jeremy A's sister blew you in the bathroom
and midway through they threw you out of the house
without your high-tops: was no way to begin a story, and it did.
And I refuse to put bread on anyone's tongue and pretend it's flesh
to put cigarettes and fruit on a grave and pretend I intended it
more than an hour before. Why should it mean less?
The Confederate dead who haunt your city. Jeremy A's sister
years later aboard the California Zephyr. The blood rushing
to your extremities, the makeshift fan, the Mahler left open.
Even now, you can't play it perfectly—notes too far, too fast.
What do you want from any of us, reader? Elegy? Epiphany?
I am hunted by an all-knowing spirit who grows a shade over my head one day
and withers it the next.