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Angela Ball

The New York School Diaspora (Part 70): Todd Osborne [by Angela Ball]

 

First, Second, Third Person (with a line from Robert Creeley)
in memory of D.R.

I am still stuck on poetry I said, once,
a lifetime ago, or not too long ago,

depending on who you are, or who I
is, when you reads this or I writes it.

And it’s true even now. An old friend
writes that she has moved beyond stanzas,

and all I can think is—how? I am trying,
even now, to decipher the mysteries

of a couplet, of an amulet and quick surprise
part of me wants to say, borrowing

another poet’s words, or stealing
like great artists are often said to do,

but I’m not sure that’s true. The words
stay the same whether they are mine

or someone else’s. Nothing is new
under the sun, cries the Preacher was

always one of my favorite verses, even
as a child, even young in faith and life,

believing so much in something I cannot
comprehend, like stanzas, like God,

like this life I have found myself happily
wandering into. I hope you found it too.

                                                             -Todd Osborne

 

Todd Osborne is a poet and teacher born and raised in Nashville, TN. His debut poetry collection, Gatherer, is forthcoming this April from Belle Point Press. His poems have appeared at CutBank, Tar River Poetry, The Missouri Review, EcoTheo Review, and elsewhere. He lives and writes in Hattiesburg, MS, with his wife and their three cats.

Osborne_Photo

The New York School Diaspora (Part 70): Todd Osborne

Todd Osborne’s vibrant and affecting elegy begins with a confession more appropriate to a childhood crush than to a lifelong vocation: “I am still stuck on poetry,” a statement whose brash clarity disappears in a contretemps of times and selfhoods: “ . . . I said once, / a lifetime ago, or not too long ago, / / depending on who you are, or who I / is, when you reads this or I writes it”--a confusion worthy of Arthur Rimbaud, Bob Marley--or, in fact, John Ashbery, that master of equivocal identities.

“And it’s true even now” does little to settle the question of who the poet is in relation to his work. Like a contestant on a quiz show he reaches out to a friend, who unhelpfully says that she has “moved beyond stanzas.”  What, is she houseless?

 

     I am trying,

     even now, to decipher the mysteries

 

     of a couplet, of an amulet and quick surprise

     part of me wants to say, borrowing

 

     another poet’s words, or stealing

     like great artists are often said to do

 

Osborne’s couplets move by a process of incomplete figuration, their guide Robert Creeley’s fascinating, enigmatic phrase, “an amulet and quick surprise.” In other words, our luck carries us, along with opportunism—the ability to jump on that which enters our path.

Is Osborne’s late friend also a poet?  Have they, in the process of dying, entered poetry? Yes or no? Or should it be Yes and No?

In asserting that

 

     . . .Nothing is new

     under the sun, cries the Preacher was

     always one of my favorite verses, even

     as a child, even young in faith and life,

     believing so much in something I cannot

     comprehend, like stanzas, like God,

 

Osborne puts his faith in the familiar. But just as at the poem’s start, certainly turns itself inside out to become mystery:

 

     like this life I have found myself happily

     wandering into. I hope you found it too.

 

The poem’s last line, itself a rhymed couplet, expresses, with touching abruptness, many things at once, in a way that only the simplest of statements can. Life, like poetry, mixes familiarity with mystery. Also death. Todd Osborne’s “First, Second, Third Person (with a line from Robert Creeley),” in its unconventional eloquence, articulates how poetry and love arise from the constant benediction of discovery.- Angela Ball


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Radio

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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