It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
of what is found there.
I can't imagine Williams could have forseen our current economic clime when he published this poem in the mid-fifties. He, along with everyone else, had their own concerns ("The bomb speaks." Enough said).
But this week I've been thinking about these lines while obsessively channel-flipping through the cable news networks. Each time I see a group of suits huddled behind a mic, telling me what I do and don't need, I think - these guys should pick up a book of poems. Specifically, these guys should read Denise Duhamel's crisp new collection, Ka-Ching!
I own all of Duhamel's books, and I've typically read them like I do a fine novella: from start to finish in one sitting. Her poems are hard to put down. I'm always wondering, "What's next? What now?"
I think it's because, like a skilled novelist, she's got a masterful sense of pace. Duhamel knows how to open in media res, with just the right portions of verve and speed, as she does with "play money," a sequence of ten prose poems she literally wrote on the back of the bills found in a board game ($100k through $1 million, to be exact). The suite reads as a memoir about growing up and family and the objects we value while we stumble through to adulthood: a set of custom pencils or chocolate coins wrapped in foil. When money is tight, or non-existent, the small stuff matters.
There's wit and games here, but also more. Duhamel uses her bright mind to address painful subjects -the anxiety of unemployment, a parent's failing health, the specter of weapons and war. It's all flashing across our televisions and newspapers every day, yet somehow she manages to wrap these fears in a sprightly language that offers hope. I'm always ready for some of that.
Here's a poem from Ka-ching!