Tuesday, March 14, 2006

We the People...

After all that snow yesterday, this morning was a beautiful picture postcard. But today I have a poetry book to tell you about. A Box of Longing with Fifty Drawers by Jen Benka is a slim book that can be read in less than half an hour. But you won't want to read it that fast. Or if you do, you'll want to read it over several times. The book is made up of one poem, in sequence, for each of the words in the Preamble to the United States Constitution. I come from the School House Rock generation and thanks to the catchy tune, I still have this important document memorized. In one of my high school history classes we had a test for which one of the questions was to write out the Preamble. If you were watching the class through the window, you would have seen us all nodding our heads over our papers, mouthing the words to the "song" as we scribbled them down. But I digress. The very first poem, "We," gives you an idea of what to expect from this book:

where were we during the convening two hundred years ago or yesterday we, not of the planter class, but mud hands digging where were we during the convening our work, these words, are missing the tired, the poor, waylaid where were we during the convening two hundred years ago or yesterday.
Most of the poems are quite short, but still manage to reflect a part of the meaning and longing that is America. One of my favorites of the super shorts is "Our"
to have something that can't be held in two hands.
The poem I like best out of all them, however, is "Tranquility"
where language meets silence slow on the sleepy page and love and love and love hushes into dreaming.
I like the soft sounds of the words, making the poem itself feel slow and sleepy, a soft blanket. This is a lovely little book, quiet, yet full of emotion. There are poems here of hope, of promises kept and broken, of community and isolation, the things that make up this "box of longing with fifty drawers" which in one poem Benka describes as "an unsolved mathematical equation." Even if you are turned off by the combination of art and politics, you'll still enjoy these poems.