b63a/1241201315-king_s_question.jpgLast week on the Poetry Chain, people were absolutely raving with glee in the comments about Richard Kenney's lovely poem about Ovid and chain retail stores.

This week, Kenney picks Brian Culhane, an author who is awesome in a completely different way.

There’s Brian Culhane, winner in 2007 of the Poetry Foundation’s prestigious Emily Dickinson Award; his book, THE KING’S QUESTION, was published last year by Graywolf. He’s in the mortuary again, engaging in what he calls the Long Conversation with bloodless academics like Hardy, Yeats, Donne, Dante, Sappho. Why doesn’t he come out in the parking lot and have some relevant experiences? A thumb in the eye, I say, turning over the microphone to A. E. Stallings, who, better for all of us, writes:

“Perhaps the best comment on these thoughtful and shapely poems is a quotation Brian Culhane himself translates from Plutarch: 'Little by little, experience dries our tears.' At a time when so many poets condescend to their audience—either by pandering to them in the name of accessibility or snubbing then with a glib, hipper-than-thou obscurity, Culhane pays his readers that high and rare compliment of assuming them to be intelligent, grown-up, well-versed, lettered and humane. It is a compliment I am confident they will rise to, and return.”

Between those two poets, there's really nothing I can add. Here is Brian Culhane's poem:

ESTRANGEMENT IN ATHENS

Mount Olympus held nothing for them.
No occasion of theirs could provoke
Magniloquent debate. Nor act require
That attic of gods to come swooping
Onto the field, swaying the battle.
Only the great booming of the ferry
As it shouldered alongside the pier;
Only the waitress counting their
Saucers; it was this April morning
That swung them by their heels.
What was missing was the impersonal,
The fated, a visionary marble address,
The goddess skimming over blue water
To whisper good news, or some stud,
Swan, or bull brimming with light.
Not a winged foot. Only Love,
Recently decamped, hovered above
The table, ready to be splendid.
But their ten years’ war had ended.

Thanks to Richard Kenney and many thanks to Brian Culhane for his poem. Tune in next week to see who he picks as the next link in the Seattle Poetry Chain.