Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Etiquette for Vampires

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves . . .

from Mary Oliver's poem, "Wild Geese"

I don't usually bother with poems I dislike, but I don't like this one. And people send it to me from time to time, as if to comfort me.

I know it's a little nuts, but every time I read it or hear it, as in a yoga class or on NPR, I get stuck on the line about letting the animal of your body love what it loves. That's all you need to do? Really?

And --you do not need to be good?

Then I start thinking--maybe it would work in an etiquette book for vampires.


ACravan said...

Three thoughts on this: a) Multiple people send you this poem? b) An etiquette book for vampires is an intriguing idea; c) I’ve warned people about listening to (any or too much) NPR. I can’t comment on yoga classes. Curtis

TC said...

Nin, anybody who sends you this poem by way of consolation or condolence must never have read any of your poetry.

This one just keeps getting worse and worse, defying parody by parodying itself.

But isn't that exactly what all mainstream American poetry is meant to do?

To be as soft on itself as it is soft on its audience, and as soft on its audience as its audience is on it.

E.g. the next few lines:

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.

The mock profundity of that multiplies all the bathos in the universe by all the wet kleenex in the purse of a famous American poet who's been daubing her eyes all through her performance, just so that audience can be certain the fake soft feelings being evoked are the same fake soft feelings they themselves have.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Every night on the American streets I run into lonely, lost people who may not know much, but the one thing they do know is that they have no place to lay their heads, no place to get a decent meal, and above all, no place in the immense marketing deceit which this fatuous poet dares call "the family of things".

Unless she simply means things, objects, in which case there is indeed a place for every other object. But I dare say the wild geese have better things to do than to announce their abject objectification to a nation of objects.

Nin Andrews said...

Yes, I so agree with you, Tom. I have some sweet friends who are not poets and who look for poetry as something to read in a yoga class or a Hallmark card. Not poets at all, but well-intentioned dreamers of a more innocent world. I am not a fan of Hallmark in any way shape or form, and of course, as you point out Mary Oliver- much like Rod McKuen is perfect for that. I don't like to see the world as it isn't, and it pisses me off when I hear Mary O on Writer's Almanac . . . Not that it's worth getting too wound up over, but every now and then I have to let out a scream.