Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Jar of Balloons or The Uncooked Rice by Matthew Yeager

Have you ever had a haircut so bad
you cried? When you open the drawer
after having poured yourself a bowl of cereal,
do you reach for a small or large
spoon? How conscious are you of your
posture? Will you agree to let a lover
use your tooth brush? Which chemicals'
smells do you like? During which phase
of life did you acquire the bulk of your
friends? Have you ever quit a bad job
emphatically, ripped off a uniform or apron,
thrown the balled-up cloth at a superior,
then stomped off? Grey or gray? Who ...

Go to Sixth Finch, Summer 2009, to read the rest of the poem.

                                                                 Editor: Sarah Jane Barnett

The reason I haven't posted the entirety of Yeager's poem is because it is long. And I don't mean long as in it has many parts, or long like a narrative poem, but long like the Great Wall of China. I was introduced to the poem by writers Ashleigh Young and Tim Upperton, who dared me to read it. So I did, in just over an hour.

Being made solely of personal questions, the poem is unrelentingly about you. It places the reader as its focus through the act of being read. Yeager's line breaks mid-question create a pace that leads into the next question. "When making a shooting- / yourself gesture, do you do the gun barrel / with two fingers or one?" he asks. "Do you insert / the finger-gun into your mouth or press it / to your temple?" When reading the questions it is hard not to think of the answer (I use two fingers and press it to my temple). Questions bounce off each other and come together to make strange suggestions. They unsettle. It's like staring into a mirror for too long. Then they keep on going.

The poem inspires many responses, the two most common, I'm guessing, are over stimulation and boredom. It has also inspired bloggers to answer Yeager's questions, which one could argue is a vain task. In saying that, Ward's Words, saw the question form of Yeager's poem as a request to the reader to answer the questions, which he did in full. It's an interesting interpretation.

So all there is to do now is read the poem. I dare you.

Reproduced on The Tuesday Poem Hub with permission.
Sarah Jane Barnett is this week's Tuesday Poem editor. She is a writer and reviewer who lives in Wellington, New Zealand. At the moment Sarah is halfway through a PhD in Creative writing, with a focus on ecopoetics. Her first collection of poetry, A Man Runs into a Woman, is due to come out this year from Hue & Cry Press

Once you have enjoyed "A Jar of Balloons or The Uncooked Rice", take some time to enjoy the other poems posted this week by members of the Tuesday Poem community. You will find them all listed in the sidebar.


Jennifer Compton said...

yeah that's great

Mary McCallum said...

Sarah - I love the way you point the gun at us (two fingers to the temple) and challenge us to read this poem as long as the Great Wall of China. And what you tell us about these questions - unrelenting - how they work and what they do. Provocative, interesting. Thank you.

Coral Carter said...

This poem does it for me...I think I will read it again!

Carol Hedges said...

A little oasis in a cultural desert. My thanks.

Helen McKinlay said...

Thanks Sarah. I really like it. it's something to print out and read to someone bit by bit. It somehow brings people together ...our funny little fads and foibles out human lot. Wow it's long though!