A podcast called Versecraft, by a young bookseller and poet named Elijah Perseus Blumov, analyzes one poem per episode, line by line, even word for word at times, to illustrate how it works and explain why it succeeds. The show is largely, but not entirely (see the episode on Robert Hayden’s “La Corrida”), dedicated to poems written in meter and rhyme, which he prefers. Past episodes of this relatively new series include surveys of poems by A. E. Stallings, Mark Jarman, Emily Dickinson, Theodore Roethke, and others.
The latest episode is devoted to my poem “Last Rites,” which first appeared in The Hudson Review, appeared as a limited edition letterpress broadside from Tollund Press in Massachusetts, and is included in my latest book, Storm Swimmer.
The host gives over the opening of the “Last Rites” program (season three, episode three) to a running feud with another poetry podcaster as well as clarifications on earlier episodes. If you’d like to go directly to the discussion of my poem, pull the bar over to the 8:30 mark or click the second link above. From that point, the episode remains entirely focused on the poem.
I’m immensely gratified to hear Elijah’s examination, which I find perceptive and subtle, alighting for instance on my use of what he (correctly) calls the “poetics of grammar” (particularly important in this poem) and the quiet allusion to the Icarus myth (which he could not have known comes through Blake’s “Tyger”). He mentions I have seven books, which is not true. Storm Swimmer is my fifth (chapbooks and fine art type projects aside). He promises a correction in a future episode.
Have a listen. I found my appreciation for poems like Roethke’s “In a Dark Time” and “On Seeing the Elgin Marbles” by Keats deepened and refined by his discussions. I’m glad he’s doing the series, and I’m happy he’s confidently crossing swords with other podcasters over the nature of poetry. It’s worth fighting over! But of course Elijah remains a gentleman throughout. I hope to meet him some day.