All right. Take my temperature. Check my pulse. I seem to have awakened in a parallel universe where dog droppings are served as pâté. Or maybe I’m just in a curmudgeonly mood. Does anyone agree with me that this April 9, 2008 offering in The Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day series is—not to put too fine a point on it—absolutely dreadful?
A POT OF TEA
by Richard Kenney
Loose leaves in a metal ball
Or men in a shark cage steeping,
Ideas stain the limpid mind
Even while it’s sleeping:
Ginseng or the scent of lymph
Or consequences queasing
Into wide awareness, whence,
Like an engine seizing
Society remits a shudder
Showing it has feeling,
And the divers all have shaving cuts
And the future’s in Darjeeling—
Blind, the brain stem bumps the bars
Of the shark cage, meanwhile, feeding,
And the tea ball’s cracked, its leaves cast
To catastrophic reading:
Ideas are too dangerous.
My love adjusts an earring.
I take her in my arms again
And think of Hermann Göring,
And all liquidities in which
A stain attracts an eating,
And of my country’s changing heart,
And hell, where the blood is sleeting.
The poem is from The One-Strand River, just published by Alfred A. Knopf. The Knopf promo copy asserts that this is “a glorious new volume” displaying “quicksilver language that surprises at every turn.”
I am not convinced.