Tuesday, May 27, 2014

To The Poets - Howard Nemerov

Song sparrow's limited creativity,
Three eighth-notes and a trill all summer long,
The falling second of the chickadee--
It's a pretty humble business, singing song.

Extremely short, I find this poem to be a sort of tongue in cheek commentary about the state of poetry and poets in particular.  Given the title, "To The Poets" I imagine that Nemerov is comparing most poets to a song sparrow, who has "limited creativity."  The sparrow sings three eighth-notes and trills all summer long.  Sure, it may be pretty at first, but it wears thin, and loses novelty.  This is a jab at poets of small talent, who are one trick ponies, to mix animal metaphors here.

I think Nemerov wants to take poets down a notch, to remove some of their self-aggrandizement.  Poetry, like the singing of birds, should be a more humble business, is what I take away from this.  Fundamentally, poets are "singing song."  The brevity of this poem underscores its wit, I think.  Two and three note birds, poets who are short of ideas but sing all summer long anyways, it all seems to fit together nicely.  I got a nice smile out of the poem, and hope that you do as well.

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