Friday, March 20, 2009

Poetry Friday - Ode to American English

A few months ago while thumbing through the books in my favorite used bookstore, I picked up a copy of Good Poems for Hard Times, selected and introduced by Garrison Keillor. I've been enjoying it tremendously. Reading it is like listening to hours of The Writer's Almanac. I can even hear Keillor's voice in my head while I read them. I would, however, love to hear the author read today's selection, as I imagine it spoken in one long, breathless sentence.
Ode to American English
by Barbara Hamby

I was missing English one day, American, really,
      with its pill-popping Hungarian goulash of everything
from Anglo-Saxon to Zulu, because British English
      is not the same, if the paperback dictionary
I bought at Brentano’s on the Avenue de l’Opéra
      is any indication, too cultured by half. Oh, the English
know their delphiniums, but what about doowop, donuts,
      Dick Tracy, Tricky Dick? With their elegant Oxfordian
accents, how could they understand my yearning for the hotrod,
      hotdog, hot flash vocabulary of the U. S of A.,

Read the entire poem.
The round up is being hosted by Elaine at Wild Rose Reader. Do stop by for a taste of all the wonderful poetry being shared. Before you go, be sure to check out this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday, all!


  1. I really enjoyed this, started to hear the poet's voice in my head by the end. He completely converted me.

  2. Fantastic choice, Tricia - such energy! Did you know that Barbara Hamby teaches a course called Poetic Techniques over in Florence, Italy, in June? Oh, wouldn't that be Heaven, signing up for that one, writing poetry in between scoops of gelato?

  3. I have that book, but how ever did I miss this poem! Very fun! I smiled and chuckled until I got to this part, and then I about spit my morning tea out my nose:

    "in which Jesus, raising Lazarus from the dead, says,
    “Dude, wake up,” and the L-man bolts up like a B-movie
    mummy. “Whoa, I was toasted.” "

  4. I miss American English like wow and gee whiz some days. This both amused and touched me -- there are things that I miss which are so difficult to articulate and some things I am pleased to do without -- but I love how she puts things:

    " the ubiquitous Valley Girl’s like-like stuttering,
    shopaholic rant. I miss its quotidian beauty, its querulous
    back-biting righteous indignation, its preening rotgut
    flag-waving cowardice..."

    Yeah. What she said. In many ways, it's not so much the language but the spirit behind it.

  5. Tanita - I thought especially of you when I read this and knew I had to share it.

  6. How weird! I picked up the very same book this week at the library. What a great poem -- all its energy and curb jumping. Would be great poetry slam material.

  7. O "the bomb of it all" indeed!!

    This is a joy and irreverant pleasure. Thank you, Tricia...

  8. Fabulous! Thank you. I've never seen that. I'd like to hear the author, AS WELL AS Keillor, read that one!

  9. I love, love, love this poem! Thank you Tricia for introducing me to this poet!

  10. Thanks for the great poem! I love Good Poems for Hard Times. Have you read Good Poems edited by Keillor? It's just as good if not better. Have a great weekend!

  11. Hoo boy! She has got it down. I'd love to hear this read out loud, especially by the poet.

  12. Tricia,

    I LOVE this poem!!! Thanks for introducing me to the work of Barbara Hamby. I'll have to buy that book.