May 8th

I feel that the poem “Dear May 8th” is probably based on some sort of very real truth. The content of the poem is very intimate and specific (“Why was the last kiss May seventh / and so shy? / Your tongue was skittish. / Your clavicle– / … / Your collarbone was hot snow to touch”). These are the kind of details that come from a real experience and probably mean a lot more to the author than they do to us. Even the title, “Dear May Eighth,” is so specific that one cannot help but think that the content is very true to a lived truth. Why chose that day, otherwise

However, I think this poem goes past that moment itself via the lush language. Without this language, this poem would be merely a recounting, something along the lines of:

Why were you so shy when you kissed me?

You seemed really nervous.

Your skin was hot.

I was committed to you.

You explained how I wasn’t aware of the things I grew up around.

Yo, why aren’t you in love with me?

You are many beautiful things and they have all lead to me kissing you.

You could show me how to live my life.



Obviously this is reductive and probably not a totally accurate interpretation of the poem, but the idea is that without the language, the poem is too sentimental, too true to life.  The language, the “clavicle / Dead bolt, little key,” the basin that makes the sky a bay” makes this poem bigger than a kiss, bigger than a question.  It allows the reader to not only read something specific but be able to read into something specific.

This pushing of poetry past literal experience is, to me, one of the reasons I write poetry.  Perhaps I am vain, but most of my poetry is about something that happened to me, or, something I wish would happen to me.  It’s realizing these moments are important and trying to convey that importance through language that is the struggle of poetry, for me.  Without this, I think poetry loses a lot of what made me love it so.


2 Responses to “May 8th”

  1. I agree. I do think the author’s job is to write a piece which is somehow meaningful to more than merely him-/herself. I like your assessment that more complex language is a good way to do this – I had been thinking of “poeticism” (if I may use that term to refer to such language as you describe) in a similar way, but not quite as defined as you’re pointing out here, and so I think your analysis is helpful to me in both my reading and writing of poetry. Thanks!


  2. I don’t think it’s vain in anyway to write about self experiences or aspirations as I too write out of them more often than not. I almost think that’s a semi-essential characteristic in the retrospective prospective structure in that, you really have to understand the subject(s) you address in order to push beyond simple statements around it. It’s interesting to me, how you said the “lush language” also helps to do this. I agree, in this poem it definitely is the language that pushes and pulls, and it’s nice that the wording doesn’t become too pretentious as language can become very easily when it is lush or elevated. It’s important in this structure I think to reveal something about yourself but not to drive the readers away with. I think as poets, part of the way to push the poem, especially in this structure, is to push the reader into the position of the poet but without “forcing” it. I think in effect, this allows the author to go far beyond simplicity in language and otherwise to create this really strong, structured poem.


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