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List of Houses Lived in 1959-1964

March 20, 2017

Mother came to visit for the first time this year (and for the first time since the last national, and traumatic, election)! You may recall the monumental effort taken at writing her a letter.  In that letter I expressed an interest in oral history, of doing one on our extended family, about which, as with most poor whites, little is known.  Mom responded with plenty of starting material.  The following is a found poem of some of her personal AND JOINT recollections.

It is also a list poem.  The list poem has had its share of detractors over the recent years, and I have sympathy for that position.   The public visibility/use of the list poem seems concurrent with the rise of the “I do this and that”, a style, if you can call it that, popularized by Frank O’hara whose commercial and literary importance seems very bloated after about ten or fifteen years of seemingly constant articles written on him (while even more deserving poets of his generation like Barbara Eden, or the slightly younger Bernadette Mayer and hundreds of others…well, you know, wa! wa!). The preoccupation with the quotidian in poetry seems to run the risk of, by its very existence within poetry, something that as a practice is an institution separate from the blood and guts of the world, oxymoronicizing itself(my browser is telling me that   “oxymoronicizes” is not a word.  You and I know better).  This should also of course not be taken out of context of the everyday world of social media, where everything we do everyday, no matter how mundane has potential staying power by virtue of their own posted statuses…anyway, we were talking about my mom.  And the List poem.

In defense of the list poem, let me remind you of Umberto Eco’s statement: we like lists because we don’t like to die.  What follows is a list of homes my mother and her sister, Patty lived in as a child between 1959 and 1964.  I tried to be as true to her scrawl as possible, not trying to correct too much spelling, punctuation or abbreviation (brackets are mine parenthesis are hers), trying to bring out the sound I was hearing.   In my typical fashion I tried to be true to the line length and ignored the margin increase this format allows.  I particularly took literary and epistolary pleasure in the flow of thought that seems so natural (interstitial and all) when she speeds up to the time period well in advance of that which the list intended.  You don’t need her life story, or anyone’s life story.  Use your imagination.  But click on Iris and Patty’s homes 1959-1964 first, as this here blog format is unfriendly to conventional poetic lineation, spacing and general typography.


From → Epistles, Poetics, Poetry

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