Saturday, October 18, 2008

"Emily Dickinson at the Poetry Slam"

On Thursday, Dan Vera read a poem titled "Emily Dickinson at the Poetry Slam," and I have yet to be able to stop thinking about this phenomenal poem. Even Mark Doty gave it a mention in his blog. When I read lines that I wish I had written I called them 'jealousy lines.' Well, every single line of "Emily Dickinson at the Poetry Slam" made me jealous. Damn good job, Dan!

Emily Dickinson at the Poetry Slam

I will tell you why she rarely ventured from her house.
It happened like this:

One day she took the train to Boston,
made her way to the darkened room,
put her name down in cursive script
and waited her turn.

Poets before her stood and rhymed,
followed a meter tight and expected,
outdoing one another in a monotonous clip.

When they read her name aloud
she made her way to the stage
straightened the papers in her hands --
pages and envelopes, the backs of grocery bills,
she closed her eyes for a minute,
took a breath,
and began.

From her mouth perfect words exploded,
intact formulas of light and darkness.
She dared to rhyme with words like cochineal
and described the skies like diadem.
Obscurely worded incantations filled the room
with an alchemy that made the very molecules quake.

The solitary words she handled
in her upstairs room with keen precision
came rumbling out to make the electric lights flicker.

40 members of the audience
were treated for hypertension.
20 year old dark haired beauties found their heads
had turned a Moses White.

Her second poem earased the memory of every cell phone
in the nightclub,
and by the fourth line of the sixth verse
the grandmother in the upstairs apartment
had been cured of her rheumatism.

The papers reported the power outages.
The area hospitals taxed their emergency generators
and sirens were heard to wail through the night.

Quietly she made her way to the exit,
walked to the terminal and rode back to Amherst.

She never left her room again
and never read such syllables aloud.

~ Dan Vera, The Space Between Our Danger and Delight

BUY Dan's book-- you won't regret it!


Sibille said...

I really like the imagery of the power shortage and phone memories going blank, everything that happened. Thank you for sharing!!!

Kelly Thompson said...

I think I would leave the ending at "She never left her room again".
Dan's poem is powerful, giving voice to the tradition contemporary poets spring from - slamming the Slam.

Dustin said...

Sibille-- I love it all. Such a fab poem.

Kelly-- I have to disagree. I think the ending line is very fitting considering the importance of words and their power throughout the poem.

Karen Wurl said...

And her scores... were 6.2, 7.8, 8.2, 8.0, and 7.9.

She was one of three poets who didn't make it past the first round, so she didn't win $20 or the chance to compete in the finals for the slam team.

Some guy came up to her after the slam, but she was pretty sure his compliments had something to do with the fact that he was looking to get laid.

wondermachine said...

Well damn, if this isn't the nicest post I've read in quite a while.
Needless to say I'm glad you enjoyed the poem. It's one I enjoy although its conception is lost to me know to a few years back.
It was great meeting you at the AQLF (ya'll need to get t-shirts next year...I can see AQLF on a good T).
Anyway. Thanks for the post and the rec. I'll have to try to find something swell for Limp Wrist.

Dustin said...

Dan-- It was a pleasure meeting you! I think we definitely need some merch for next year. Well, in regards to your poem-- it is damn good or else I couldn't say so. OH-- I'm totally going to hold you to your last sentence! hugs, Dustin