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So, it appears that the online magazine, Slate, offers a poem read by the author every week. I’ve been subscribed to Slate for about a year now to get updates on the political news content. But this morning, as I was scrolling through their posts, I noticed there was a poem amongst them! This was a bit of a shock to me because when I think Slate, I think politics. And when I think ‘politics,’ my mind definitely does not jump to ‘poetry.’ Yet, here we are.
This week, Slate featured poetry from Paul Breslin. Paul Breslin is a Professor of English at the Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences at Northwestern University. Yes, the Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. What luck that the first time I notice Slate features poetry, the poet is from Northwestern, which is so nearby! Paul Breslin has written many books and won many awards, all of which you can read about at this link.
There is something special about hearing a poet actually read his or her work aloud. Because they are the ones who wrote the poetry, they know where the stops and pauses belong, they know how to pronounce all the words, and they know where to lay emphasis in order to wring the emotion out of you as intended. I would argue that you haven’t fully experienced a poem until you’ve heard it actually read by the poet him or herself.
In this week’s featured virtual poetry slam, Paul Breslin reads seven of his poems in a column called “Seven Octets,” so named because each of the seven poems consists of eight lines. You might think that would get boring, the same format over and over, but Breslin changes the visual layout of those lines as well as the rhyme scheme over all seven poems.
The poems Breslin reads seem to flow in a rollercoaster fashion, beginning at the low end with his childhood memories, cresting at a peak with his middle-aged life involving the purchase of his own house, and then ending once more at the low end with more remembrances from his childhood.
My personal favorite of all seven poems is “Primal House” because it ties together all of the others, in a way, with the remembrance of childhood memories weaving into the speaker’s adult life. The mention of grief and loss recalls the final two poems, which mention the speaker’s dad. This begs the question of whether the grief and loss the speaker felt as a three-year-old, in that first house, was caused by his father.
Some very interesting poems here from Paul Breslin. I’d encourage you to check them out and definitely listen to Breslin actually read the poems himself. They gain a whole new meaning when you hear a voice put the author’s name.
— Honeycomb Editor, Mary Egan