I’ll have to admit that I’m having a hard time working my way through Paul Hoover’s Postmodern American Poetry, as you might have guessed since I keep writing about something else or working in Photoshop. I suspect that I should have read this book in a college class I’d paid to attend and then I’d feel more obligated to keep up with classroom assignments, or at least keep up enough that I wouldn’t sound like a total idiot in classroom discussions.
Reading this book and trying to make sense of each and every poem has proven to be extremely hard work for me, and I haven’t consistently lived up to that goal. If I weren’t determined to gain a better understanding and appreciation of postmodern poetry, I would have long since given up trying to finish this nearly 700 page work and moved on to poetry books sitting on my shelf I know I’d love to read.
Unfortunately, I still find myself clinging to long-held ideas of what poetry is or should be. So, invariably, I seem to find myself drawn to the poems that are closest to those that I’ve loved in the past. Hopefully, at least I am more open to different forms of poetry than I was before I began reading this work.
With that caveat in mind, I’ll just say that this poem by Charles North is my favorite in the last hundred pages I’ve read:
A FEW FACTS ABOUT ME
I am moved often, and easily
without knowing why or finding it appropriate
to be a consequence of somebody else’s unfathomable will.
I can be taken in by the suggestion of emotion in others
even if their actions are as foreign to human psychology
as the emotions of European children in American textbooks
or American textbooks in American life. Deciding what my life
will be has always been the decision as to what it has been,
and before I met you I knew what it would be like, and planned
to be in the path
of whatever could change it, whether or not it prevented me
from being the sole translator of your natural eloquence.
As the captain of my fate and steerer of my star
I don’t find any single decision irrevocable,
feeling inadequate to life’s daily immensities, a condition
of the unwillingness to act, for of the things that are human
the best is to be unavoidable, which doesn’t make it any better
but doesn’t make it worse–like that sunset I’m always refusing
to look behind
or away from as if to be dull were the reverse of not shining
and living selfishly when that too is exhaustible.
Most of all, I think that I like the self-deprecating humor of this poem. That’s not to say that I don’t find more truth here than I’d like to admit. Of course, it reminds me a little of that old adage, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans,” but at my age looking back that seems more like truth than merely a cliche’.
I’ll have to confess that I’m often moved by poems or odd movies that seem to have little or no effect on others, and I would have a hard time explaining why I found them moving. While I would like to think that I was the captain of my own destiny there’s not doubt looking back that much of my life was changed by forces I neither affirmed or understood.
But neither have I found “any single decision irrevocable,” and hope that at the very least I have learned something from the errors of my ways, particularly when I have lived “selfishly.”