On the night I married, in our ante-bellum rental in Lake George, nestled on the Josephine chaise was a small, beautifully embroidered pillow. It read “So many men, so little time.” But I chose.
The question of my favorite poem boggles me. I have so many favorites, and now a deadline to make a choice.
The first one that comes to mind is Dylan Thomas’, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” perfect Villanelle that I remembered as my sister lay dying after having fought a four-year war with disease, finally not “kicking and screaming,” as it seems Dylan Thomas would have his father do.
I love ee cummings, his delight in words, his playfulness with form, his observations. “anyone lived in pretty how town…” tickled me. When I discovered ee cummings’ work in high school I bought a blank page notebook to fill with my own quirky poetry.
So many more:
Yusef Komunyakaa’s amazing poems about war and disaster, addressing huge issues with brilliant imagery.
Tom Lux; his wit and humor and seriousness
Emily Dickinson, her singular voice: my favorite, “Because I could not stop for Death-/ He kindly stopped for me-”
Roethke’s, “My Papa’s Waltz,” reminds me of my father and dancing in our living room with my Mary Janes planted on his big shoes.
Mary Oliver’s poem, “The Journey,” hangs on my studio wall because it is about becoming, about taking a solitary journey into that voice inside, to be aware that first you must take care of yourself, set out on your own quest. That poem helped me get through a lot of bumps in my own journey.
I’m choosing here Kim Addonizio’s poem “What Do Women Want” because, though it is also about a woman’s journey, it is a brash, modern voice. Also I heard Addonizio read once at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival and this one brought down the house. This poem is funny and serious and so contemporary. It appeals to my feminist leanings and says a lot about our culture. With its ironic and passionate imagery and sexuality it conveys the idea that today’s woman will not be held down or locked into a role. She will defy men’s or society’s preconceived notions of what a proper woman should be. The dress (her body, yes, but also her sense of self) will carry her through a woman’s life. She takes that flimsy red dress on a walk past the town’s folk who may be stereotyping her or judging her. She claims not to care. She doesn't want to care. She doesn't care. She is woman and has important things to do. She will assert that red-dress-attitude. It will take her through life and it will become her, and she, it. Not necessarily a spiritual journey yet, but a beginning of discovery.
What Do Women Want
by Kim Addonizio
I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what's underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I'm the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment
from its hanger like I'm choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I'll wear it like bones, like skin,
it'll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.