Why Poetry Matters: Poetry and the Domestic —–February/ March 2011.
I had a break last month from writing my usual note about poetry for the Nittany Valley Writers’ Association Newsletter. The reason was because chaos ensued after my apartment was flooded last month. I am now getting back on top of my writing workload, however, and things are getting back to normal.
Poetry is often thought of as an elite mode of writing which focuses on grand themes. Some of the most successful poets, however, place their poem in a familiar domestic space, which nevertheless enables them to work through universal and enduring themes. Take for example, a poem by local poet Robin Becker: ‘The Roast Chicken’.
Ostensibly, the poem tells a simple story; the narrator cooks a roast chicken, picking over its carcass on consecutive nights. By the end of the poem, however, it is clear that the narrator is actually picking over her own life choices. The tone is rueful, self-mocking even, as the narrator sits down to eat ‘alone’. The use of humor, however, makes the subject matter all the more affecting: the suicide of the narrator’s sister, loneliness, the lack of family life, and the narrator’s fear that she may be taking on the characteristics of her father. Though the poem is confined to a simple, domestic scene, it hinges on a sense of regret, and ends with the image of an old flame who admonishes the narrator for lost chances:
knowing that she was your best chance,
though she would say
your best chances are the ones you take.
Note: You can find ‘The Roast Chicken’ in Becker’s collection All American Girl.