Thursday, April 14, 2011

Is That A Poem in Your Pocket or Are You Just Glad to See Me? (Or, This Room Has Mystery Like a Trance)

Today is National Poem in Your Pocket Day. "Poet" was a sincere career aspiration of mine when I was a child (oh, who am I kidding, that intent lasted well through college). I credit my grandmother Mae for getting me excited about poetry. Her brother (so, my great uncle) was poet and artist Kenneth Patchen, who was a fixture in the literature and art scene of Greenwich Village in the 1930s and 40s (he and his wife Miriam lived on West 11th Street - around the corner from the White Horse Tavern). Kenneth and Miriam later moved to San Francsico and then Palo Alto. My grandmother had a lot of his books and I was awestruck every time she shared them with me.

To celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day, here is Patchen's poem "This Room Has Mystery Like a Trance":

This room has mystery like a trance
Of wine ; forget-me-nots of you
Are chair and couch, the books your
Fingers touched. And now that you

Are absent here the silence scrapes
A secret rust from everything;
While sudden wreaths of sorrow's
Dust uncover emptiness like halls
To stumble through, and terror falls

In the 1950s, he performed his poetry with John Cage ("The City Wears a Slouch Hat") and jazz greats like Charles Mingus. He also experimented with painted poetry. Below are some samples of his visual work (more can be seen here).

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