The Lighthouse Keeper

My ear, a shell on the pillow;

        the down, the sea from which his mouth arrived

Strange to live in a wet world, then wake in the desert.

        The cactus on whom milky needles grow.

Let me live offshore, where the water is low.

        Strange, and then so much less so.

I was seventeen.  Do you want

        to know what I didn’t know?

I do.

That is from the new book of poetry by Meghan O’Rourke, columnist and culture editor at Slate.com.  Here are five more poems from the book.  Here is a page on the book.  Here is an interview.  Here is a rave New York Times review.


What is the poem about?
Not being snotty. I've always wanted to "get" poetry, but never have.
If someone can tell me what I'm looking at here, it would be most helpful!

More seriously, I find this somewhat interesting, but not really enough so. The use of rhyme is arbitrary and clunky (I confess on rereading it I'm tempted to read the last line "I dough"). And does the metaphor in the second line really work out? (For example, did she actually see or feel the down? What happened, they tore up the pillow?)

Metal sandwich
frozen by long ostriches
repentant, only on Thursdays
a long fog of twilight.

You used to say
there were other reasons why
the jeopardized tiger would growl
on the beach, idly.

Now I know
fortunately with the waves
how much more prescient we could be
with our socks on.

Thanks very much, that'll be one hundred dollars.

Yeah, I guess she dreamed about love, then experienced it, and it left her cold, then she avoided it for a while and grew thorny. Now she kinda wishes she had experienced more. She also thinks other people wish the same thing. Ah, lost youth. The lost youth of cactuses. Cacti?

Eh. Most modern poetry sucks. The entire apparatus for critically judging it has collapsed. This is better than a college lit mag, which is all one can expect any more.

Garrett, your standards are disturbingly low. If you really mean this:

If you read it much harder, you don't feel that little twinge when you read those last three lines.

you should consider the possibility that that little twinge is an entirely meretricious effect.

OK, thanks. I read "The poem is about: a bunch of images. That's what all poems are about." and leaped to conclusions.

Online, we have to try to get our meaning across without the aid of coffee -- and as readers, we sometimes have to remember to read as if coffee were provided.

Comments for this post are closed