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Poems that get stuck in your head

I was at the coffee shop the other night and was in the ice cream part of the shop, chatting with the barristas Sam and Diane. Although I miraculously managed to avoid ordering any ice cream, I waxed loquacious and pretentious about the overwhelming temptation that ice cream offers. Somewhere in the midst of my polysyllabic soliloquy I used the phrase "concupiscent curds".

Diane chuckled at me and said "I  didn't understand half of that...I hope you meant something good". I said that I did, and hastened to point out that I didn't come up with the words "concupiscent curds" myself. They are from Wallace Stevens "The Emperor Of Ice Cream". I then realized I probably hadn't read that poem in over 20 years, but those words stuck with me for some reason. Sam and Diane agreed with me that was a sign of good poetry.

This was an interesting topic. I mentioned that another poem that has stayed  with me is John Crowe Ransom's "Piazza Piece". I told Sam that frequently when I see an unattainably young and beautiful woman, I think of these lines:

Your ears are soft and small
And listen to an old man not at all

Sam enthusiastically said "Damn that's good!"

I couldn't help but agree. There was probably something to be learned here about poetry being intelligently written AND accessible to folks who are not scholars.

There is one stuck-in-my-head poem I didn't mention in the conversation. That is John Berryman's second sonnet. A while back, I was walking across the front field of our school and there were a bunch of people sunbathing. I saw one lady with one knee bent and even though I had sold my copy of Berryman's sonnets years before, I couldn't help but think of it's last line:

One knee unnerves the voyeur sky enough

Most poetry does not have that kind of staying power.