Sunday, December 22, 2013

Shann Palmer

I never got to meet poet Shann Palmer , who passed away yesterday , but I did get to know  her at Slate's now defunct reader forum, Poems Fray. There was a loyal group of us who, as forums tend to be, were passionate  , insightful, sometimes angry and excitable to varying degrees, and we opined at length on matters of poetry, poets, poetics and ,yes , poetry again. Many of us were poets on the forum and a few of us were actually good. Shann, though, was not "actually good" at writing poetry; she was bloody superb and had a way with building a series of sentences that formed perfectly etched stanzas, the stanzas in turn following a thought through its permutations in the real world, remembered and current, and her conclusions were nearly always the perfect summations of  a poet, a person who , though perhaps cranky, tired, in love, angry or joyous, knew what she didn't know and looked forward to investigating the next incident, the next adventure. Her images were clear and uncluttered, beautifully spare, her voice was the plain speaking but literate combination of someone thinking out loud and telling you what there is in her world . She was one of the most intimate poets I have read--in my readings there nearly always seems to be a confidant, a husband, another person being spoken to, or rather , spoken with. Shann's gift, her gift to us, was that hers was not a poetry of conclusions, summaries or getting things nailed into place. It seemed more like a conversation she was having, in progress.  Her passing brings me sadness because there is not just one less friend, of a sort, in my life, but one less significant poet in the world to inspire me to write another poem, to fill another page. God speed, Shann.

Two poems by Shann Palmer, originally published by electica.org:


fat-bottomed girls you make the rocking world go round
how much is too much?
how much cake and condiments
chocolate decadence crushed
nuts on whipped cream dreams
sugar wafers extra sugar salad
on the side hell on both sides
cointreau soaked fresh fruit
panne bread garlic butter spread
all the way to the edge of the toast
cinnamon and sugar coffee latte
mint cookie not to mention
entrees wellington well done
spanakopita shepherd's pie
en crustade layered lasagna
mozarella moshed ricotta
enough to make an angel weep
kate smith sing another song
liz let out another inch shelley bed
another star-struck boy rosie bite
a dog vanessa stop watching

a Boston ballerina dies
for want of bone Paris models
with sunken eyes shoot horses
in a world where children starve
there are no easy menus no
compassionate cuisine only
secrets in every house in every
kitchen in every heavy heart.

You can't spit
around here without hitting
a poet or novelist these days
dime a dozen like my daddy's
cheap detective magazines
back in the fifties as if any of 'em
know what the hell I'm talking about.

we used to have integrity once
or twice a month shit I knew I would
never be left alone or without a drink
there was always something
jumpin' somebody laying low
someone to sleep with course
that had another set of problems
there was that woman in Tucson
used to say her crabs had the clap
she was telling the truth too.

we'd put on the Doors or the White album
smoke weed until we were comatose
watching the candle dance on the adobe
as if it meant something maybe Gilman
would have some sweet hash there was
that time Pfieffer jumped the train with
a couple of Black Panthers on the run
standing out on the porch watching
the stoplight change talking about the whole
goddamn universe being a celluloid
moebius strip slept on the floor
landlady came by the next morning
said we were all pigs but didn't throw
us out we were fine buncha crappa
always paid on time in spite of our
intense recreational illegal activities
we weren't dopers we were intellectuals.

reading poems with gravity Jim would blow
smoke in my face but I never cracked if Steve
wasn't there he'd try other things that sometimes
worked but that's better left unsaid my words
transcended thought he told me I'd tell him the future
none of it came true except we never
married and I'm still writing poetry
pulling lint out of my navel and calling it art.

1 comment:

  1. Ted,

    Thanks for this. I just found out in another forum that she had died. I've been trying to think about how to write my own remembrance.

    Best
    Chuck/august

    ReplyDelete

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