To celebrate National Poetry Month, our Sundress editors, interns, and SAFTA staff are sharing some of their favorite poems, most influential poems, and poems that they are really digging right now. Put them all together, and you have the Sundress Poetry Playlist!
Today’s picks come from Sundress/SAFTA intern, Chris Barton!
“A Supermarket in California” Allen Ginsberg
I enjoy this poem because of the different levels of place. On one hand this is a poem about the desire to be a writer, “shopping for images,” a historical place. But there is also a complex loneliness in Ginsberg’s wandering around a supermarket full of people that blossoms through a series of tensions: individual/community, nature/commodity, and mainstream/alternative lifestyles. What is on one level a melancholic poem about seeking inspiration within a consumer space, a ‘reconnection with art or nature’, becomes a self-aware meditation on this act, a sort of ‘poem in spite of’ that reconceptualizes the focus of American poetry, and adds a sense of freedom to its future direction.
Poem [The eager note on my door said, ‘Call me’] Frank O’Hara
I came to appreciate this poem after reading a lot of O’Hara. What I enjoy is the inaccessibility of the events inside a narrative that’s very casual and inviting. Again, setting is important to the function of the poem. We can assume the action takes place from one apartment to the other, but this is never plainly stated. The poem functions more as an emotional space. What begins, like most O’hara poems as a beautiful, light-hearted narrative evolves into a jarring image of death. The poem moves from one emotional extreme to another in an abrupt, almost violent way. The only meaning that is derivable is from this juxtaposition of images, which ultimately doesn’t allow for a logical understanding. What is allowed for is a comment on meaning as contextual, and often through a construction of difference—dead “leaves brighter than grass”.
“Ryan Gosliing” Mira Gonzalez
I put this poem on here because I read it recently and really liked it. It is a kind of pop art poem that title deals with class and extreme levels of individualism—stardom, celebrity idealization, and our tendency to define ourselves by larger abstract interests like fan clubs. What I like is how flat the language of the poem reads, and how sharply this flatness contrasts with the title. There is a long history of celebrating the self in an ecstatic egocentric way in poetry that this poem resists. The narrator has a very average view of their self that is refreshing, and deals with feels of anxiety and isolation in a direct way that seems very human to me, and still provides a sense of companionship.
Chris Barton is a 2013 graduate from the University of Tennessee. His work has appeared in Still and Polaris. Books he has enjoyed recently are Begging for It by Alex Dimitrov, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy by Tao Lin, and Selected Poems, Frank O’hara. He currently lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.