“in the pleatpetal purring of mouthweathered May”: Karen Volkman’s “May”

IMG_6833A couple years ago, I reviewed Hailey Leithauser’s Swoop, a collection that plays with language so exuberantly that I found myself grinning over many of the poems.

I felt that same sense of exuberance–though tilted toward the macabre, I think–when I read Karen Volkman’s “May.”

In the poem’s couplets, “the old saw wind” dressed in May’s finery (“gaud gown and ruby reckoning”) “[s]ays, dance that skeletal startle the way I might.” In couplets the wind directs a kind of dance (“you one, you two, you three your cruder schemes, / you blanch black lurk and blood the pallid bone”) that’s more about evoking a sense of atmosphere through words that punch than about describing actual movement.

For me the poem captures those brief days in May when all the trees are blooming pink and white, but already on the cusp of discarding those petals—just waiting for the right breeze.

It’s a tricky poem, though; what do you think of it?


“The field as iridescent as a Renaissance heaven”

I just downloaded The Poetry Foundation’s app for iPhone, and friends, it is swanky.  I lack the requisite hand-eye coordination for Angry Birds and other games you can play on a phone, so most of my apps are (a) free and (b) related to news or making lists. But this morning, sitting through yet another rendition of “Elmo’s World” on Sesame Street (my presence is requested at all viewings), it occurred to me that maybe I should search for a poetry app.

For me, this app is like a delightful game: pick a few thematic elements, and voila! Poems! Scrolling through today, I found the poem I’ll be memorizing this week, David St. John’s “In the High Country,” a lovely May meditation, particularly appropriate given the beautiful weather in Boston this afternoon (not to last, I’m sure).