Saturday, 5 September 2009
Stephen Dobyns, Happy Birthdays, In-coming Season and The Yardbirds
I have just received a copy of a collection of poetry I ordered from the States by the poet Stephen Dobyns. I came across him by accident when a friend Facebooked a link to one of his poems (see Facebook does have uses over and beyond knowing that someone you don't know that well, if at all, is eating biscuits, running in a half marathon or generally mooching). I sat down and read the collection, ‘Mystery, so Long’, this morning after I got back from the farmer’s market in town, where I chatted about the joy of fat marbled beef with the farmer who lives three miles away who breeds beef cattle, commented on the delights of a cheddar mustard and ale cheese made by a cheese-maker four miles distant and bought fresh baked wholemeal bread from a local farmer who grows his own organic wheat and mills his own flour that his wife bakes into glorious loaves the smell of which wafts from the stall and sits on your shoulder whispering, ’ buy me, you know you want to’ . I wandered home probably repellently smug in the knowledge that I had purchased food with such a low carbon footprint. I sat down to the indulgence of lime and elderflower cake (cake making lady just up the road) with a cup of sweet Colombian blend ( I managed to block out the thought of its carbon footprint and mutter the mantra of ‘it’s fair-trade coffee, it’s fair-trade coffee’ to hold on to the smug mode for just a while longer). All this and a good poetry collection to read was a small corner of heaven on a dull fen Saturday.
I had not heard of Dobyns before and it is always a pleasure to explore a poet I wouldn’t normally come across. Dobyns manages to make that conversational style of some American poetry look easy and yet it is a skilled craft which requires more than prose chopped into lines. He tends, in the poems I have read so far, to stroll through life as if it is a huge stage set for the theatre of the absurd and the wry asides seem totally at home with concepts of orang-utans shitting on stage at concerts to liven up the proceedings for those not already into classical music, talking dogs, a parrot attached to a man’s shoulder as he hurries to the city day after day. Dobyns seems not so much part of any surreal school of poetry but grounded in how people really live yet within their lives such things are happening which only the absurd can perhaps depict, such things are happening which makes them unique even in the seeming hum-drumness of their days. Here are a few of his poems, Yellow Beak, It's Like This and Over a Cup of Coffee, see what you think.
I can feel autumn coming in fast now, autumn is a season I love. It is not so much an end of summer but a beginning of things winding into themselves. Dark nights in front of fires. I am not a hot weather woman I like bright cold days, piles of leaves, thick bacon sarnies in front of old black and white films on the TV whilst the wind and rain busy themselves outside. Today is the Boos birthday, I am sure I hung on into September so I could push her out into a world that smelt of autumn, no summer baby for me. A September baby is always one of the oldest in the class in the English educational system, an August birthday consigns you to being one of the youngest. There are always perks to be had in being just that bit older, well that is what I tell myself when my young dentist who I had a conversation with this week whilst my mouth was full of iron mongery and sucking devices, revealed that she can’t even remember Take That first time around let alone that Jimmy Page was in The Yardbirds.