from Five Powers Poetry with Tony HoaglandPosted on Facebook, December 17, 2012
We expect poets to deliver us peculiar perspectives and intensities of perception, but we don't always see the intricate skillfulness with which such poems operate. Here's a nine-line poem by Ann Carson — typical, for her, which means it is full of small oddities of craft as well as perspective. "Strange Hour" has something in common with haiku, but it also has an element of the Confessionalist pitiable grimace, and it also has a moment of postmodernist meta-commentary. See if you can identify all three stylistic moments.
Somehow Carson always makes the oddest things fit together, like ancient Greek philosophy and sadomasochism in a marriage (as she does in her book The Beauty of the Husband.)Strange Hour
3 a.m. cool palace roar of Oakland night. Not even a siren then a siren far off. Train passed a while ago now nothing.
Bare lightbulb in garage across the street who left it on.
Every sentence should contain a fact at least. No one but myself ever seems to set foot on this balcony strange to say.
Undertone of hatred I cannot eliminate From my feelings of friendship for most people.
Clear at this hour.
In "Strange Hour" you can see a very haiku-like unit in the poem's first three lines. (You might also identify line four, standing independently, as a marvelously Basho kind of poem in itself.
Secondly, you can find the excitingly detached curtsey to postmodernist technique in line five, "Every sentence should contain a fact at least.", wherein the poet lectures herself about the rules of how to make a proper poem.
Thirdly, of course, the penultimate sentence, though it is spoken in a rather stoical manner, is a moment of rough, ruthless Confessionalist self-inspection.
When different angles and types of sensibility are layered together like this, it can produce, in the hands of a master like Carson, something which is larger than expected; a rich, odd resonant portrait of the quirky actuality of a human consciousness. The cumulative effect has a scale, nobility and honesty which derive from the recklessness of technique. This is a sad, crisp poem, with great simplicity, and complexities we could think about for a long while.
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