Napo 15

  Admiring Jessica Barksdale’s “Zoo Story”   This is such a wild poem! The metaphor here is a little messy, but I think that’s ok. At first I thought the poet was comparing her marriage to bears, then her life to walking through the zoo at all of the different animals, and then at the end, the speaker actually is one of the zoo animals herself, the aging gorilla. So I guess the metaphor shifts as the speaker walks through the zoo? Anyway, it’s fun and interesting.   The poem ends with a kind of “feel good” message—basically, life is beautiful, even for the gorilla in a cage. Enjoy the moment, especially when “The sun is shining” and you can “feel the wind blowing through your fur.” 😊   So, we live many “lives” throughout our lifetime, and walking through life is like walking through a zoo. Ok, I get it. And it’s overall pleasant, though not without its dangers.   Some cool moments in the poem:   The opening stanza is really great—there’s a sharp turn where vehicle

Napo 14

  Today I was exploring Night Heron Barks, which is a truly exquisite journal. The napo website pointed out two poems, and both of them speak to me in profound ways. I’ll choose “At 23” for a go here, but “The Flower is Haunted By” is a fantastic poem too (the ending of that first section!).   This poem builds the metaphor of love as a Minotaur from classical mythology. When the speaker is young, he sees it as exciting, a challenge, but as he gets older, finding love becomes more complicated. The labyrinth hides it, and it becomes illusive.   I can super relate to the last stanza, which brings the poem back to the beginning. It explores the tenor of the metaphor (love) in greater depth: At 23 love was inevitable as the sun / on a windowsill. Days disposable. / Nights thinly disguised as afterlives.”   I think what the poet is saying is that we think that love comes easy when we’re young, and it does. When you get older, love becomes more difficult to find, and you apprecia

Napo 13

  Admiring “Birthday” by Grace Q. Song   This poem’s pretty sad, but the title is birthday, so there’s this juxtaposition that’s really interesting. It’s about a speaker’s grandmother’s birthday, but at the same time, the grandmother is dying. And the speaker is just at the age where she understands this.   The poem begins with a somber gathering—the family is finally together, after living most of their lives apart. There’s a father, two sisters, an aunt, and an uncle, and then an elderly, frail grandmother. The grandmother is the focus of the poem: “her body hauled / like a ship onto a wheelchair.”   I think she has some kind of dementia, because the grandmother can’t recognize her family right away. This is particularly good writing: “the strangled echo of a groan falls out / of her mouth.” We can feel how far gone this woman is, how she’s suffering.   The family then sings happy birthday to the old woman, “our voices like ravens / trying to find each other in the da

Napo 12

  Admiring Elizabeth Muscari’s “Cannoli”   This poem answers the question of how to handle grief. It uses the metaphor of making cannoli for dealing with something difficult—a parent remarrying another person, a family torn apart, a divorce.   The speaker seems to handle grief in the same way she handles the cannoli dough—silently and seemingly with ease. Ah hah. That’s really apt, really good.   Let’s tease it apart a little:   So the structure of the poem strikes me at first glance. We have a couplet in the beginning, then most of the poem is tercets, then the last stanza is once again a couplet. Since the poem is about marriage and divorce and maybe an affair, that makes the structure even more interesting to me.   Ok, so the poem is also about two sisters who deal with this grief in different ways. One is open about it, but the speaker is silent about it. From the beginning of the poem, we learn about the sister because she apparently punched the speaker “at our

Napo 11

  Today I’m reading “Threnody: December 2020” by David Mojahn, published by Plume Poetry. Plume is one of my favorite literary journals—they always publish such exquisite work. This one poem is no exception to that.   It’s actually a pretty simple poem. It’s about a speaker having a dream of a deceased loved one, and the speaker doesn’t want that dream to end. But what makes the poem poignant is the specifics, so it’s just any ghost they’re mourning but this specific one, Jean. But in grieving Jean with the speaker, I’m grieving too for the unthinkable loss of my own love, my partner in life. I’d be just as lost as this speaker.   So, what’s going on in this poem?   It’s addressed to Jean. We’re on a train.   “The train coach, Jean—empty except for you, / the lighting dim”   Immediately we’re drawn into this scene, and with the dim lighting, we’re already getting a hint that this is a surreal experience, not a real one.   “This is the special / privilege of dre

Napowrimo 10

  Admiring “What I learned as a Girl Scout Was How to PlayAmerica” by Lily Greenburg   This is a fine poem. It’s about what it means to be an American and how we’re conditioned to think and act certain ways. It’s mostly about capitalism and a critique of our culture—   It’s about looking like you’re doing a good thing vs. actually doing a good thing   Preparing girls for the “real rules of Suburbia” 😊     In the beginning of the poem, we see a common image: a troop of little girls “in the sunniest patch of curb” at the local Kroger wearing “little brown vests” singing adorably to sell their cookies.   “Oh America,” the speaker proclaims, “give us your money.”   As the poem unfolds, it goes on to describe the different badges the girls earn—some of them real, some of them not, and what the girls have to do in order to earn them, in order to become women.   Near the end of the poem, it gets a little dark—the speaker is now twelve and her parents tell her “n