Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Giraffe -- novel (& prose poem) by May Swenson

Poet and playright May Swenson (1913-89) was born in Utah to Mormon parents and grew up in a home in which Swedish was the primary language. Swenson wrote of the experience of poetry as "based in a craving to get through the curtains of things as they appear, to things as they are, and then into the larger, wilder space of things as they are becoming." Here are the opening stanzas of Swenson's prose poem, "GIRAFFE:  A Novel," from In Other Words:  New Poems (Knopf, 1987).  I think this is FUN -- and hope you also enjoy it.

Chapter 1

Giraffe is the first word in this chapter.  Is is the second word.  The is the third word.  First is the fourth and word is the fifth word in the first chapter.  In is the sixth and this is the seventh and chapter is the eighth word in this chapter.

Chapter 2

Is is the second word is the second sentence in the first chapter.  Is is the first and the second word in the first sentence in this chapter.  This is the third word is the third sentence in the first chapter, and the third word in the first sentence in this chapter.  First is the fourth, and word is the fifth word in the first chapter is the fourth sentence in the first chapter.

Chapter 3

The fourth sentence in the first chapter is in the fourth sentence in the second chapter.

Chapter 4

The first word is Giraffe, and the second, ninth, tenth, fifteenth, twentieth, twenty-fifth, thirty-fourth, thirty-ninth and forty-fourth words in the first chapter are is.  In the second chapter the is the third word and the is is the fourteenth word in the third chapter.  In this chapter the first and last words are the.

There are, in all, 12 chapters in "Giraffe." This is a poem I return to again and again. It reminds me of something just out of reach,  My attempts at understanding. Their incompleteness.

1 comment:

  1. May's words "based in a craving to get through the curtains of things"

    reminds me of a poem by Charles Wright titled Reunion where he says

    "and disappear
    through the
    upper right-hand corner
    of things."