Friday, September 25, 2009

Poetry Friday: How to Create an Agnostic

I dare you to open Sherman Alexie's new collection of poetry, Face, to any page and not be yanked in by your neck.  I love many things about Alexie's work, but prime among them is that he bangs open the door of each poem and invites you in straight away.

Take the direct address of the opening of "War Stories":

"I've got an uncle who punched a man's eye
Straight out of his skull. My uncle died
Young, but the one-eyed man turned eighty-five"

Or the titles which are as inviting as flashing FREE FOOD signs:

"Naked and Damp With a Towel Around My Head, I Noticed Movement on the Basement Carpet"

or the one below, "How to Create an Agnostic"

How to Create an Agnostic
Sherman Alexie

Singing with my son,
I clapped my hands
Just as lightning struck.
It was dumb luck.
But my son, awed, thought
I’d created the electricity.
He asked, “Dad, how'd you do that?”
Before I could answer,
Read the rest here

For more about my reaction to hearing Sherman Alexie speak at the Fairfax Fall for the Book Festival, see my post from yesterday, Worked Over and Messed Up.  For those not disturbed by profanity, see his website, Falls Apart, for more poetry.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by poet Susan Taylor Brown at SusanWrites


  1. Yesterday I spoke of fearlessness and optimism and love. Sherman also embodies fearfulness, pessimism and hatred. Resignation, bitterness, sorrow.

    All done so well.

    He's more himself than many people ever can be. It is to THAT pinnacle which I aspire: to better be myself. That's what his inspiration gives to me this trip 'round the sun. Next trip might be different.

  2. I've been reading this new collection, too. Some of the poems are hilarious, and many of them grab you by the neck, as you say. I find a leetle too much emphasis on the speaker's manhood, as the romance writers would put it. Still, this is a great choice for Poetry Friday, and a book people should know. I don't think it work work well for teens as the concerns are pretty much grown-ups' concerns. What do you think, Sara?

  3. I'll let you know about teens when I finish, Susan. There were a lot of young people at his talk---18, 19, 20-year-olds. They seemed to be completely riveted by his performance.

  4. Okay, you've convinced me -- must get this collection. I do like being grabbed by the neck. I can see why his visceral approach would intrigue teens.

  5. His ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY was one of my favorite books ever, and I know he as a new book of (non YA) short stories coming out. I'm sure that he has a LOT of teenage fans. I was just wondering if the concerns of the poetry book--parenting, aging parents, and so on--would appeal to younger readers.

    I would LOVE to hear him talk in person.

  6. I can't wait to check this out!

  7. Got to get this collection! I heard him read a poem or two last year in person. Fantastic!

    And this reminds me that for years, our younger daughter thought my husband could change the traffic lights because he would clap just as it would turn green. "Let's go, Daddy! Make it green!" she'd say impatiently as we waited. And he'd say, "Well, we have to give everyone their turn."


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