Original poem reprinted online here: "Eating Poetry" by Mark Strand
Originally read: July 15, 2013
More information about the Poet: Mark Strand
A couple of notes past me wrote on this poem. "End stopped lines. Child like Appeal." "Punctuated Insanity." Past me had fun with this poem. It is a fun poem to for bibliophiles. Anyway, the poem works like a surreal narrative in which the tercets, and the punctuation add a sense of structured madness.
The poem starts out on the focus on ink and how it is on the corner of the speakers mouth because, "I have been eating poetry." Yes, the metaphorical meaning is strong here. Perhaps eating poetry means excessively reading. But the metaphor doesn't matter to the speaker. The actions of the speaker are centered around the surreal.
Meanwhile the actions of the librarian, "The librarian does not believe what she sees. / Her eyes are sad / and she walks with her hands in her dress" focus more on response and consternation. Funnily enough, I relate more to the I speaker, but in the poem the reader is just like the librarian.
"The poems are gone. / The light is dim. / The dogs are on the basement staring and coming up." There's an introduction of the third element of "dogs." There is special attention to the dogs through description, "Their eyeballs roll, / their blond legs burn like brush. / The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep." This is the first instance of simile in the poem and the dogs from the basement have a "blond" look but are also compared to a brush. There's a lot to allude to here: Cerberus, art, unknown, etc. However, this is not the focus. The focus then turns to the librarian who stammers -- is so in moment of the unknown that she could only express herself physically.
And in turn the speaker expresses himself physically, "She does not understand. / When I get on my knees and like her hand, / she screams." Note there's a star of a rhyme sequence. In the previous stanza there was internal rhyme of "feet and weep" and now "understand" and "hand" to add a sense of humor to the poem. But note how tender the speaker is to the librarian. The description of "poor librarian" indicated this sense, but to lick someone -- that's better than biting someone. And now the surreal is taking over until the end.
"I am a new man. / I snarl at her and bark. / I romp with joy in the bookish dark." The speaker confirms that he's a "man" with attributes like the dogs from the basement. And yes, he does snarl and bark, but not in a violent, and more importantly, dominating sort of way. The speaker quantifies his actions with "joy in the bookish dark." And yes, dark could be interpreted as the shadow, the unknown, the personal knowledge no one else dares venture. Or it could me going back to a book.