Friday, April 12, 2019

30 Great Poems for April, Day 12: “The Master’s House” by Solmaz Sharif

Read “The Master’s House” on the Poetry magazine site here.

Anaphora—the poetic device where each line starts with the same word or phrase—is tricky. The trap of anaphora is that it can bore a reader like me, whose attention span has been spoiled by MTV and my own rush-rush-deadline-day-job life.

But Solmaz Sharif plays the form beautifully, craftily, by inducing the repetition but then changing it up every couple of lines, so just when my attention starts wandering, we get “disrobed,” and then Ethel Rosenberg, and the red states. Now my attention is piqued, and I’m eager to see where we’re going. And by the time we get to the lead-vested agent and the dinner bell and the shotgun, I am dug into this deep well of a poem, wanting to figure it out. And then the tenses in Farsi—that seals the deal; this poem has me. And then the punch of the last three lines.

I love this poem because I don’t know it; it makes me wander off and research things. It’s a sort of crossword puzzle that I’m not sure I’ll ever fully solve, but which feels like a life-giving exercise. I had to look up another reader’s explication of this poem just to understand that the title is a reference to Audre Lorde’s 1984 essay “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.” That shows how far I still have to go with this poem (and, obviously, my education in many things). Some poems you get in a heartbeat; others make you look and wonder and read.

[All through April, I'm featuring a favorite poem every day, along with a link where you can read it. Some are classics, some are newer, but each one is the kind of poem that I read, love, and immediately want to tell all my friends about. What better to time to share them than National Poetry Month?]

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