HOW TO LIKE IT
by Stephen Dobyns
These are the first days of fall. The wind
at evening smells of roads still to be traveled,
while the sound of leaves blowing across lawns
is like an unsettled feeling in the blood,
the desire to get in a car and just keep driving.
A man and his dog descend their front steps.
The dog says, Let’s go downtown and get crazy drunk.
Let’s tip over all the trash cans we can find.
This is how dogs deal with the prospect of change.
(from VELOCITIES: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS, 1994)
Early this morning I was awakened by the first cool air of Fall.
Yep, it’s really coming. It’ll be official on Monday.
Autumn is definitely my favorite season, but its beauty is always tempered by feelings of unease. Another year is ending, where did the time go, have I made any progress — you know, things like that.
So I was thrilled to stumble upon “How to Like It,” by Stephen Dobyns. Maybe you’re already familiar with his work, but he’s new to me. I think he’s one of a very small number of “academics” whose poetry is actually accessible. I’d encountered so many professorial types before whose work was just too obscure and frustrating.
I found “How to Like It” both comic and profound, exacting, a balm to my weary spirit, refreshing and charming. I love how introspection is intertwined with matter-of-fact reality. There is much to be learned from the instinctual, spontaneous life of a dog! And, finally, now I know why I look in the refrigerator so often :).
I look forward to reading more of Dobyns’ poems, and peeking into his highly regarded, Best Words, Best Order: Essays on Poetry (Palgrave Macmillian, 2003).
I highly recommend reading this two-part interview (bookmark it for later if you don’t have time now). It’s like a mini poetry class, and many of the things he discusses (including why some poets write obscure poetry) will resonate, I promise.
Language is always a diminishment of what it’s attempting to describe, and thinking of the critical things we know, all those which are critic-based are, for the most part, a diminishment of an idea.
I’m trying to deal with the world, to understand it in some way, to pass to some other kind of level below its surface. The question — it’s been said — that exists in every work of art, poetry or fiction and, I suppose, maybe even in music and painting, is the question How does one live?
Today’s Poetry Friday Roundup is at author amok.
*Don’t forget: You have until midnight tonight (EST) to leave a comment at my interview with Maha Addasi, for a chance to win a signed, personalized copy of The White Nights of Ramadan.
Have a beautiful weekend!