Poems Against Poetry
Slate's National Poetry Month celebration.
Slate is celebrating Poetry Month while also observing the resistance to Poetry Month, with poems against poetry, or poems attacking some kind of poetry. Last week, we presented the Renaissance poet Ben Jonson's "Fit of Rime Against Rime." Here, from two poets born near the beginning of the 20th century, are two short, crisp poems full of bile.
First, Louise Bogan:
SEVERAL VOICES OUT OF A CLOUD
Come, drunks and drug-takers; come, perverts unnerved!
Receive the laurel, given, though late, on merit, to whom
and wherever deserved.
Parochial punks, trimmers, nice people, joiners true-blue,
Get the hell out of the way of the laurel. It is deathless
And it isn't for you.
In a similar irritated tone, similarly full of bad feeling, and similarly a pleasure to read aloud, here is Stevie Smith:
MISS SNOOKS, POETESS
Miss Snooks was really awfully nice
And never wrote a poem
That was not really awfully nice
And fitted to a woman,
She therefore made no enemies
And gave no sad surprises
But went on being awfully nice
And took a lot of prizes.
Former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky is Slate's poetry editor. His Selected Poems is now available.
"Several Voices Out of a Cloud" from The Blue Estuaries by Louise Bogan © 1968 by Louise Bogan. Copyright renewed 1996 by Ruth Limmer. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. "Miss Snooks, Poetess" from Me Again: Uncollected Writings of Stevie Smith, published by Virago Press in 1981 and Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 1982. Used by permission of Jack Barbera, beneficiary of the estate of Stevie Smith.