April 12, 2016

Friday, February 17, 2012

Poetry Friday: "Don't Go There" Odes

Happy Poetry Friday, Friends! I've got something for your high schoolers this week. It's not elementary-friendly.

I missed last week, but I have a doctor's note for the teacher.

It turns out that the pain on my lower right side is not a wonky appendix, but an ovarian cyst. I felt so ridiculous being gurney-wheeled past the ER nurse's station that I had to give them my best QEII Royal Wave. The nurses thought I had been given too much morphine. "No," I said, "I'm just naturally funny."
Little known fact: My middle name is Elizabeth, after the Queen.

There has been a trend in Poetryville over the last few years. I call it "Don't Go There" Odes. The trend has its roots in Pablo Neruda's Odes to Common Things -- socks, a tomato for lunch, laziness.

Lately, poets are taking the simple things to mean "things we don't like to talk about." At the last few Dodge Poetry Festivals, I have heard odes to television (Robert Pinsky), pork (Kevin Young), and toilets (Sharon Olds with a nod, I think, to Ferlinghetti's poem "Underwear").

Like an overbooked radiology lab, the Internet would not give up any information about ovarian odes. Nothing about blisters growing on that little jellyfish-head looking thingy on your insides. (Side note: my doc drew a lovely picture of the uterus and ovaries for me. It resembled an elephant wearing ovary earrings.)

The next best thing to an ovarian ode is Sharon Olds' "Ode to a Tampon." I happened to be at the Dodge Festival for this reading. You'll see her toilet ode first. Be prepared for some toilet-appropriate four-letter words. Or you can skip ahead to about 3:02 for "Ode to a Tampon." I've got a prompt after the video, so stay put!


So, brave educators. Do you dare to go there with your high schoolers? Pablo Neruda used the ode form -- not to write about grand emotions like love, or monuments (isn't there an ode to limestone) or Grecian Urns -- but to draw our attention to everyday things.

The natural next step in the life of this form is to draw our attention to so-called unmentionables and show why they are worth mentioning, even celebrating. (Odes are a great place to practice hyperbole, BTW.)

In these poems, television is a channel (!) to the past and a window to memory, we can talk about where meat comes from and why we love it, toilets and tampons -- where would we be without them?

I challenge you to write a "Don't Go There" Ode today. Maybe my cysty ovary and I will join you.

Myra at Gathering Books is our host today. Do go there, to Gathering Books, for more Poetry Friday.


Tabatha said...

I love the image of you doing your queenly wave and having to explain to the nurses that you're just naturally funny. (Which you are, of course.) Hope you have a calm and healthy week!

Author Amok said...

Thanks, Tabatha! Feeling much better after an acupuncture treatment.

Mary Lee said...

Oh. My. Goodness. Sharon Olds is my hero today. Her Tampon Ode is fabulous!

Best wishes for you and your ovaries.

Author Amok said...

Mary Lee, your comment cracked me up!