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The poem appeared in the collection Play Dead.

The title conjures a baseball field, maybe even in a schoolyard at gym class, where students who maybe couldn’t care less are sent to the outfield, giving all the attention they can muster to anything but the game. The poem even enters that way, the speaker paying more attention to slugs than the ball. Interestingly, the slugs are misnamed at the time (“caterpillars… larvae… worm”), the way young children have a tendency to generalize, as when they may call any animal with four legs a dog.

Reading the first stanza, some things confuse me. The “hairs” and “stinging” I’m not entirely sure who to attribute to: slugs have neither. Besides my own misreading, it could also but that the narrator isn’t reliable, and the creatures aren’t slugs at all. Other points of confusion: whose heads are “urticating” (causing a stinging sensation); what is parting (the “fat color diamond”?), is there an actual caterpillar in the piece, beyond the “slugs”? In general, the first stanza I had a hard time getting through. …


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The poem is taken from the collection, The Sobbing School. The title suggests school as a setting, and also the focus will be on someone acting as an assistant in some capacity, professional or otherwise. It could also hint that the teacher is in need of help in the classroom.

In terms of structure, the poem is balanced with six stanzas of tercets. Fittingly, the poem only directly identifies three characters: the speaker (a son), Ms. Hollinger, and the father.

The poem portrays the speaker, who is embroiled in fights/potential bullying, from several perspectives. …


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Don Mee Choi’s collection Hardly War, which details parts of the Korea and Vietnam wars, is one of those poetry books that’s best read in its entirety to really get the scope of its nuance and notice the metaphors, imagery, and wordplay that get repeated. Given how this space is too short for that, though, I’m taking a look at a piece entitled “New Tarzon Guided Bomb Hits Bull’s-Eye!”

The piece is unusual in that it borrows American narration from a 1952 newsreel; it is immediately followed by the same story covered by British narration, making it a found poem of sorts with an audio origin (again, for time, I can only look at one). …


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Today, I’m looking at Adrian Matejka’s “Cannibalism”, a poem from the collection The Big Smoke based on the life of boxer Jack Johnson. While much of the book focuses on boxing/fighting, Johnson’s relationship with white women, and automobiles, this poem struck my attention because of its differences from the rest of the poems.

To look at it, one of the starkest differences between the poems and the others is the structure: a single block of text, one of the longest in the book, where each line usually containing less than 4 stresses. The result is a lot of enjambment, thoughts that feel unfinished for a moment as the reader, or even speaker, catches their breath. For a poem that displays aggression and exasperation, especially towards the end, the structure works well. For the times when a complete thought fits in one line (e.g., …


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The poem uses a sonnet, mostly in iambs, but with some shifts in rhythm to draw in interest. Take the trochee (“Take it”, with the stress on the very first word) to start the poem with more urgency, which is fitting since the sister is imploring, even commanding, the speaker. These breaks in rhythm, in addition to the use of the sister’s speech, as well as the mix of sentence structures (simple sentences in the third stanza, such as “She holds it up to view” and “We know it’s her hair”) really help keep the sonnet from feeling too rhythmic and predictable — it even feels a bit like free verse at times. …


Thanks to Maudlin House and Johnny Kiosk for letting me take a closer look at this piece!

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About

padre poet

My name is Geoff Anderson. I look at poems. Usually, I’m missing something. www.andersongeoff.com

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