Collection of Poems, linked: Carver: A Life in Poems

Carver: A Life in Poems by Marilyn Nelson. Front Street, 2001.

Would it be admitting ignorance to say I don’t like poems I don’t understand? I mean, I sort of understand “The Perceiving Self,” but I mostly don’t. It makes me wonder if the purpose of poetry is to communicate, to feel smart, to make your reader feels unsmart ...

“[T]ouched our stamens/pleasured us with pollen.” Obviously sexual, but what to do with a lynching? Other images in that one confuse me too. Am I too dense to read poetry? 

I do love the artistry and form of this book: poems from various perspectives all drawing a picture of Carver and the world in which he lived. The sad truth: I had to Google Carver to make sense of the poems (I dimly remembered his name being related to peanuts from some lesson in preschool—my lord, preschool!). Thank God for Wikipedia. 

I wish Nelson had found some way to contextualize the poems for those of us who are a. young (since this is in the junior nonfiction section), b. products of the modern educational system, c. missed a lot of school (literally or metaphorically) even if a and b are not the case, or d. are just plain ignorant. 

Lovely words, lovely poems, but the poems are sort of like single petals of a yellow flower. We don’t know if we have a daisy or a dandelion. And how we understand and appreciate the flower depends upon where we find it: a garden, the lawn, a clogged downspout. “His students/see the light of genius/through the dusky window of his skin”—beautiful petals, but of what? Where? Many stunning poems like, “From an Alabama Farmer.” But the title says it’s a life in poems. Somehow I missed the life, found only poems.

Nelson's other book for this age group however, Fortune's Bones, is among my favorites of all time.