"somebody frum somewhere"

8:34 AM Posted by James Owens

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I have a poem, "Black Lung Office," in the autumn issue of Appalachian Heritage.

Scroll down to the poetry section and click on the title.

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8 comments:

sam of the ten thousand things said...

Enjoyed the poem, James. Very real. Especially like the ending - "a cough like something torn". And praying into the red cloth is such a strong image as the reader leaves the poem.

Sorlil said...

I really like 'a cough like something torn' also and agree with Sam on the ending. It reminds me a little of the the effect of the girl in the red coat in Schindler's List - it feels like the poem is in black and white until that sudden splash of red at the end.
I also like the heavy emphasis on the first word in each line of the first stanza - gives the poem a strong sense of inevitability.

Roxana said...

some Benn influence, maybe? :-) do you like Benn?

James Owens said...

Thanks, Sam. I'm glad you enjoyed the poem. It feels unusally personal, which always makes me wary. My dad died of, mostly, black lung a few years ago, and like so many others he was wounded by the government's treatment of that disease. It takes a long time for the details of lived life to make it into poems, for me. And I'll bet you've known guys like the one in this poem, too. Today I am regional and filled with political rage....

James Owens said...

Sorlil: Thank you for reading so closely. It really matters to me that you notice things like stress and rhythm. Poets, myself included, should think more deliberately about such while writing.

Schindler's List and the little girl in the red coat.... Don't make me think about her. I was really glad that I went to see that movie alone, because I cried all the way through (can one say "I wept" without over-dramatizing?). It is Spielberg's redemption for so much junk, and a great movie, but I have refused to see it again. It just hurt too much.

James Owens said...

Roxana: Benn? Hmmm... I hadn't thought about Benn, but maybe so....

I like Benn sometimes, when he isn't gloating over corpses. I think I understand how important those "Morgue" poems are in the Expressionist aesthetic for the defying of Romanticism, but I don't really trust Benn, somehow. He is a sentimentalist under the surface, working hard to cover up. He is outraged -- over and over, every time -- when he discovers that human beings are nothing more than rotting animals. But this discovery is shocking only if, deep down, one believes human beings are really angels in disguise. How many times did he re-write Baudelaire's "Une charogne"?

Or maybe those poems are dated, now. They seem programmatic, more than raw and immediate, which is how they must have felt when they were first read....

Anyway, Benn is not always in the charnel house, and I find some of his late work really moving....

Sorlil said...

I know what you mean, I have the soundtrack to Schindler's List but can't listen to it at all.

Roxana said...

yes, I also have mixed feelings about him, and like his late work better. but I doubt that those early poems seem programmatic to us only because of the cultural distance, I somehow suspect that they had the same effect back then too. not that this is a fault in itself, but, yes there is this 'but' in his case.

and james, good morning :-) it's cold outside and my windows are full of mist...