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From Hart Crane in LA, 1927

May 2, 2016

From Hart Crane in LA, 1927

Someone reminded the others that the poet
was so desperate he pawned his grandmother’s watch

then wrote to Gide “no Paris ever yielded such as this.”

Later when things got worse, when the houses
turned the color of stale mayonnaise,

he went down to the beach to read Hopkins
and claimed the drawling mockingbirds drowned out the spondees.

The first colleague said his idea of the poem was
too big for any life to carry and so the end was inevitable.

Then the waiter appeared, slightly harassed, and everyone
ordered a lobster club and a diet coke, before the next candidate arrived

as another colleague repeated with an edge in her voice, “inevitable?”

Peter Balalaikan, 2016

COMMENTARY: Peter Balalaikan’s The Ozone Journal won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry last week. I didn’t know his work before, so I gave the book a look , and was impressed by this poem—the way it jumps from the present to past and how historical details of Crane’s life seem to “harass” the comfortable setting of the fancy restaurant. I like the image of the mockingbirds drowning out the spondees and the idea of “the poem being too big for any life to carry.”

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One Comment
  1. Yes, this is a great line:

    the drawling mockingbirds drowned out the spondees.

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