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« Kenward Elmslie, 1929-2022 --- Poet, Lyricist, Publisher | Main | "Woodstock '69" [by George Green] »

August 14, 2022


To see a poem by Toi is to float through the air in the finest of chairs. I love this woman. I love her writing, her smile, her voice, her life, her accomplishments. But today, I love her chair.

I love this poem. My favorite chair looks different today. The art work is so fitting for the poem. 💺

I love this poem!

I love this poem and this poem. I have just that chair, only with gingham checked cushioning, not polka dots. My mother used to use it literally to rise: she’d pump back and forth on the rockers till she’d achieved enough momentum to stand up. Thank you Toi D! Thank you Terence! Thank you magical chairs!

And thank you, Clarinda, for the comment.

"Do not go gentle, fat chair." Yes, and I love Susan Campbell's wonderful color pencil drawing.

what david said

Toi Derricotte’s “Lauds” invokes the atmosphere of prayers uttered in the early morning hours, usually 5 a.m. or during sunrise. Obviously the word laud means “praise,” and the goal of a religious laud is that the first act of any day should be praise. Derricotte beautifully grafts this act onto the poetic gift of a chair, which she praises for its role in helping her to create. Any serious writer knows the value of a comfortable, pliable, wholly familiar chair—no matter how worn or “slight-/Ly askew”—in which to sit and create. We take it for granted, but Derricotte reminds us that habitualness need not engender indifference. The chair is a silent partner, capable of “defying gravity” and “climbing waves of mourning.” The identification becomes complete with the words “so you are me.” The sun begins to shine through the blinds, and the speaker (ostensibly the poet) has “turned aside / To praise my last-legged you.” The chair is invested with opera singer “Jessye Norman’s lungs,” and the sentence “Do not go gentle, fat chair” is an obvious reference to Dylan Thomas’s famous villanelle “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.” Note that Derricotte’s poem is nineteen lines divided into five tercets and one quatrain, the essential but, in this case, intentionally unfastidious framework of a villanelle, which, like the chair, has “wooden bones” that “tilt.” Derricotte ends by acknowledging that she and the chair “dance” together in imagination and thereby “live.” Her poem celebrates that collaboration by animating the inanimate. I’m left utterly lauding “Lauds,” the handiwork of a sublimely inventive poet. (Let me also laud Susan F. Campbell for her impossible-to-resist “Armchair” art.)

Thanks, Earle. Always great to have one of your incisive comments pop up on the screen.

Just to clarify:

I give Terence Winch pride of place with his spot-on remark: "We become what we behold."

And I in turn give full credit to William Blake.

I wish I had a chair that flew like Toi's. My furniture tends to swallow.

Wonderful poem and perfect chair!

The chair is on its last legs, but, invited into this rich poem, the chair acquires a soul and, with its brilliant author, is ready to dance.

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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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