Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday Poem

Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

Last week's poem was by novelist, short-story writer, screenplay writer and poet, Sherman Alexie.

After high school, Alexie attended Gonzaga University but dropped out to follow a girlfriend to Washington State University. There, he enrolled in a poetry workshop where he was assigned a poem that changed his life. He has said, "If I hadn't found this poem, I don't think I ever would have found my way as a writer."

Joe Fassler, in a series on writers for The Atlantic, did a profile on Sherman Alexie which includes that poem, "Elegy for the Forgotten Oldsmobile." Alexie found one line in that poem transforming, a line that is repeated several times. This line is not, however, as Fassler wrote, the first line of the poem.

By GPS 56 from New Zealand (1962 Oldsmobile Starfire)
[CC BY 2.0 (],
via Wikimedia Commons

You may read about the author of the poem, Adrian C. Louis, here. A visit to this website will not let you down. There is a pleasing Minnesota connection that I note. Mr. Louis retired from Minnesota State University Marshall in 2014.

A section on the website is titled "Requisite Puffery." Here is a "puff" by Sherman Alexie that sheds light on the power of this poem.

I read one line in one poem in particular that was revolutionary and revelatory. The line was I’m in the reservation of my mind. It was by Adrian Louis, a Paiute poet. For me, that was like Because I could not stop for death, death kindly stopped for me... It was I sing the body electric... It was all that and more. It was the first line I ever read in any work, anywhere that applied to something I knew. It was a flash of lightning, a roll of thunder, when I understood everything that I ever wanted to be. When I read that line, I knew I wanted to be a writer.

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