I was recently turned on to Lisa Jarnot's poetry by a professor of mine. I read a bunch of her work online, and almost immediately I identified with her words, her rhythm, her images, her song. It was one of those moments where one knows a shard of one's self lives in particular lines of poetry; a warming, familiar feeling. A hot cocoa of verse. What made the feeling even more fantastic and fulfilling was how oblivious I was to her words. The discovery was beautiful.
and at noon I will fall in love
and nothing will have meaning
except for the brownness of
the sky, and tradition, and water
and in the water off the railway
in New Haven all the lights
go on across the sun, and for
millennia those who kiss fall into
hospitals, riding trains, wearing
black shoes, pursued by those
they love, the Chinese in the armies
with the shiny sound of Johnny Cash,
and in my plan to be myself
I became someone else with
soft lips and a secret life,
and I left, from an airport,
in tradition of the water
on the plains, until the train
started moving and yesterday
it seemed true that suddenly
inside of the newspaper
there was a powerline and
my heart stopped, and everything
leaned down from the sky to kill me
and now the cattails sing.
What I love about this poem is its nonchalance, and the sort of quotidian rhythm that it sings itself in. I thought first of Frank O'Hara's poems--the opening line "and at noon I will fall in love" reminds me so much of O'Hara's "The Day Lady Died" ("because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton / at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner") and "Personal Poem" ("Now when I walk around at lunchtime"). Jarnot tosses these images over her shoulder like a peacoat and walks about with them, casually. A darkness undercuts the poem--this is where O'Hara's and hers differ--but there is a sort of jubilance that Jarnot uses to wrap about the overhanging gloom, for example "my heart stopped, and everything / leaned down from the sky to kill me / and now the cattails sing" lords an uneasiness to the piece. Jarnot's wild eye and ear for enjambment and internal rhythm lend the poem a conversational tone as well.
Jarnot lives in New York City. I just ordered her 2001 book, Ring of Fire, and I am very excited for her poetry to avalanche in my blood.
Be excellent to one another, and do good work,
Image source: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_HkY1TkCcO9Y/R7x2rYH19fI/AAAAAAAAAlg/iha5b99D2-U/s320/jarnot.bmp