FreeVerse: “Anchor” by Rae Armantrout & mini-review

by , under books and reading, poetry


“Widely expected,
if you will,

Things I’d say,
am saying,

to persons no longer

Yards away trim junipers
make their customary

“Oh, no thank you”
to any of it.

If you watch me
from increasing distance,

I am writing this

This poem is from the collection that just won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, Versed by Rae Armantrout. I was lucky enough to find it in the TSCPL catalog on the day the awards were announced, and checked it out the same afternoon. I have to admit, my first impression as I read through the early part of the book was, This really isn’t my cup of tea.

I think a big part of my reaction to the book is simply that the style is quite different from what I usually read. The poems aren’t long, and usually that’s a plus, but many of them look similar to “Anchor,” in that the lines are short, and the stanzas are short, and the poems themselves are short — it’s like, Where the heck is the poem? It’s like a tree in winter, not just slim, but really bare. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but that I’m not accustomed to reading that style of poem throughout a whole volume.

Another thing that threw me off: a lot of the poems — again, see the example above — have no ending mark of punctuation. There are periods or other marks to show the end of sentences throughout the poem, but then at the end, there’s nothing, so it’s like the poem just drops off the ledge or something. I love my punctuation, and that kind of thing is hard for me to adjust to. They aren’t all like that, some of them do end in periods, but many do not.

I liked the second half of the book better than the first half. Then a funny thing happened: after finishing the book, I skimmed back through some of the poems from the first half of the book, and found some that I liked better on revisiting them. So, I’m quite glad I got the chance to read this one when I did, and I think it stretched my poetic mind a bit. “Anchor” is from the second half of the book, and it’s one of just a few that I liked a lot on first reading.

© All the parts of my life 2008-2015.

  1. Kelly

    This is a new poet for me and, from what you've shared in your review, sounds like one I would enjoy. My mind works best with shorter poetry (maybe why I love Haiku?) and I often find great depths in brevity.


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