Wednesday, April 17, 2019

30 Great Poems for April, Day 17: “Mimesis” by Fady Joudah

Read “Mimesis” on the Poetry Foundation site here.

Oh, man, that last line.

Fady Joudah is a Palestinian-American physician who was born in Texas, grew up in Libya and Saudi Arabia, and now lives in Houston, where he works as an emergency-room doctor. (His poems have a gentleness that I can only hope bely his bedside manner as a physician.) Somewhere in his busy doctor’s life, he’s found time to publish work in many of the top literary journals, win the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition, and publish several well-received books. I tell you all this because, people: This is a poet you should know about.

And while a poem, generally speaking, should stand on its own, without the scaffolding of the poems around it in the little microcity of a book, or the celebrity of the writer of whatever—yes, still, when you know a little about the poet, sometimes their work is infused with something extra, a deeper-felt appreciation you wouldn’t have otherwise.

And to that, here’s the definition of mimesis (I had to look it up): “imitation, in particular: [meaning 2] the deliberate imitation of the behavior of one group of people by another as a factor in social change. Zoology: another term for mimicry.” There are so many levels of mimicry going on in this poem—spider mimicking human habitation, father mimicking the oppressor, daughter questioning that chain, and ultimately (we sense) father mimicking daughter. And it’s short—so, so short! Think of what he could have cluttered it up with and chose not to.

[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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