Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A Few Words on Want

Just finished reading Rick Barot's 2nd collection of poetry, Want (Sarabande Books, 2008) and wanted to take a moment to urge all of you to go out and seek a copy for yourself.

I had the pleasure of meeting Rick when he was the Jenny McKean Moore Fellow at The George Washington University. I was selected to be one of the poetry scholars in his semester-long workshop, which helped me make some great strides in my writing. Not only is Rick a great poet, but a damn nice guy on top of that.

Reading the poems in Want is like having a serious conversation with a good friend: there is an implied intimacy between the speaker of each poem and its reader. You feel the gentle hand on your shoulder as the voice speaks to you.

Here's a section from my favorite poem in the collection "Like a Fire that Consumes All Before It". Before you jump to the conclusion that this is an occasion poem about the earthquake-driven tsunami of 2005, Rick says in his notes that the first three sections of the poem are actually about the 1992 flood in Ormoc City, the Philippines. What I love most about this section of the poem is how spare the language is, with the three simple adjectives reserved for the final two lines.

2.

The woman at the dinner table carefully told us
there was a clamor when forklifts had to be used
to move the bodies. They were piled in the square,
having been collected from the shorelines, rivers,
from streets in town where the water and sludge
had carried them. There were too many of them
to be handled singly, and too few of the workers
to move them. After the bodies were put in trucks,
they were brought to the huge holes dug beyond
town. The ground was soft; the digging was easy.

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