Favorite poems: Uncouplings

Craig Arnold’s “Uncouplings” appeared in October’s issue of Poetry, and it has been rolling around in my mind since then. I’ve always wanted to write a poem that finds words within words, like Arnold does here — “drawing laughter from slaughter” is about as far as I’ve gotten.

I like the way he works from the trite phrase “there is no I in teamwork” through words that are related to healthy bonds between two people–together, relationship, communication, listening skills–twisting each one to a negative connotation. The last two stanzas–marriage and family–amount to “grim area” and “my fail.” The latter acts as a jarring but understated culmination, and a surprise– I’d never noticed that those words could be gotten from “family.”

It’s a spare poem but one packed with meaning and technique that feeds it.

I was a judge at a slam at which Arnold was competing in Deadwood in 2002. He was drawing audible gasps from the audience with his performance of his poem “The Power Grip,” a piece about a specific sexual maneuver, which he described in graphic (but poetic) detail. The older ladies at the slam were horrified. I thought it was hilarious.

Arnold is now a professor at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, last I heard. His collection “Shells” is required reading, in my opinion. He has a new book out, “Made Flesh,” from Ausable Press. I’ll let you know when I’ve read it.

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~ by ericedits on November 16, 2008.

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