Dish poetry editor Alice Quinn writes:
Ron Padgett is a master of scale, adept at tiny poems, long poems, and prose poems, too. Here are two from his recent Collected Poems, published by Coffee House Press and winner of both the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. The first is titled “Song”:
Learning to write,
be a good person and get to heaven
are all the same thing,
but trying to do them all at once
is enough to drive you crazy
The second is “Poem”:
Trade places with an animal?
Have a muskrat read my books
while I scuttle through the woods in terror?
Padgett has many admirers among poets, among them John Ashbery, Thomas Lux, Alice Notley, Charles Simic (“As is often the case, leave it to the comic writer to best convey our tragic predicament.”), and Tom Clark (“These poems mingle the nervy sophistication and cosmopolitan experimentalism of a thriving international avant-garde art tradition with a kind of hillbilly twang that’s unmistakably American.”).
It’s the tenderness and the whimsy that captivate me.
“Glow” by Ron Padgett:
When I wake up earlier than you and you
are turned to face me, face
on the pillow and hair spread around,
I take a chance and stare at you,
amazed in love and afraid
that you might open your eyes and have
the daylights scared out of you.
But maybe with the daylights gone
you’d see how much my chest and head
implode for you, their voices trapped
inside like unborn children fearing
they will never see the light of day.
The opening in the wall now dimly glows
its rainy blue and gray. I tie my shoes
and go downstairs to put the coffee on.
(From Collected Poems © 2013 by Ron Padgett. Used by permission of Coffee House Press. Photo by Mikael Colville-Anderson)