Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sharon Mesmer: Poet Laureate of Brooklyn?

Polish-American poet Sharon Mesmer is being considered for the position of Poet Laureate of the largest borough in New York. You can read all about it and see one of her poems about Brooklyn in The Brooklyn Paper.

Here are a couple of Sharon's poems that appeared in the special issue of Kritya dedicated to Polish-American and Polish Diaspora writing that I co-edited with Christina Pacosz.

Blue-Collar Typeface

From the colophon to Aaron Simon’s Carrier, Insurance Editions, 2006:

“Gotham 2003: This plain yet quintessential font was designed by Tobias Frere- Jones and is based on vernacular architectural lettering found throughout New York City. It is a blue-collar typeface that is both utilitarian and perfectly simple.”

Some people would like to be blue-collar
without actually having been born blue-collar.
While you,
who were born blue-collar,
wish you could afford something more
than the Wendy’s salad bar.

Some people who are proud of how blue-collar
they think they are
speak roughly to waiters,
never look them in the eye,
and refuse to pay to get into poetry readings,
while afterwards
they’re back home
putting their Manhattan co-op on the market
so they can buy a house
on the outskirts of Paris.
Some of these people are your friends.
They will surprise you.
Because someday you will discover
that all that time they seemed so interested
in what you had to say about your
blue-collar upbringing,
they never found actual blue-collar people
all that interesting.

Because a blue-collar person can’t recommend them to an editor
or get them into an MFA program
or set them up with a teaching job.
Blue-collar people often don’t care about
academic poetry,
the breaking of the line,
and they may not necessarily give a shit about anything
Noam Chomsky ever said.
But that doesn’t mean that blue-collar people are
“utilitarian” or
“perfectly simple.”
I know lots of useless,
imperfectly complicated
blue-collar people.
And their line breaks
kick your line breaks’s

Summer, Elizabeth Street

Into a green-gold tumbler of light
along the side of the church
we surged,
a scourge upon the fading strains
of the Litany to Our Lady.
Tossing red beanies
into prairie air,
we ran with eyes closed,
past RoJo's,
Patka funeral home,
and the ochre two-flat where the Rybicki family lived,
its color a refract of noon sun
into Mexico.
All colors angled out that day
into a low-grade version of eternity
that would span three green months
and end in a Rambler
in the parking lot of a department store
across from the little airport
the day before Labor Day.

And in the evenings,
there was nothing on TV
(this was before "The Partridge Family").
And so summer —
that one summer —
was swallowed
by the cool of the Sherman Park tavern before noon,
the bra models in the Sears catalogue,
and the girls from "Scooby-Doo."


Sharon Mesmer is a Fulbright Senior Specialist candidate and recipient of two New York Foundation for the Arts poetry fellowships. The Virgin Formica (Hanging Loose) and Annoying Diabetic Bitch (Combo Books) were published in 2008. Her blog is available online and elsewhere.

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