After a brief war with WordPress, I’m starting to think I can’t put videos on this blog, and I’m very mad. Instead of having that lovely movie just waiting here to play, you’re going to have to follow this link, which will take you to YouTube. Then, you too can sit around like an old geezer grumbling about the workings of the internet.
Once you’re there, note that Conrad Lucas’s poetry begins at 11:00, and then get ready for some classy stuff. It’s just quintessentially poetic: fanciful extended metaphors, lingering questions, and evocative stories. I bet the transcendentalists would love it.
The first poem is “The Landscape of You,” and I’m drawn in by the first line: “You look tired, girl.” Maybe it’s because I’m a girl and sometimes I feel tired. But this gently sympathetic line is a great start.
The rest of the poem, I feel I am both the speaker and the addressee. I’m an impenetrable unknowable landscape (I’m so cool!) and a wandering, inquisitive creature looking for shelter (so lonely!). Poems that address a “you” from an “I” perspective have this wonderful flexibility for the reader, and Conrad has done a fantastic job giving me enjoyable personas to sink into. It’s great to find little bits of yourself across literature. Or–it’s great to find little bits of the person you want to be.
As usual, there are a wonder-load of great lines in this piece, but my favorite is probably “I spent my time trying to read those/ pages,/ those hieroglyphs,/ penned in a foreign/ and dead tongue.”
The next poem Conrad reads in the video (the one that won’t load onto WordPress) is called “Endless Squall.” How sibilant, appropriate, and promising.
It starts with life and things and similes and stuff: the price of gasoline, the way wind bends the trees, rhinos and airplane pilots. The middle of the poem is more of the same. These things make a huge backdrop for the last lines: a red herring of massive proportions. It wraps up with a few thoughts about fleeting memorabilia people leave when we die. All that previously mentioned stuff becomes the dirt over a body, endlessly covering death after death with an implacable, impatient vitality. Life is much larger than death. The wind and the going-places and the preparations-for-winter are larger.
Conrad’s final Helicon poem is “Skinny.” It’s a life-story, poem-biography, tale of a person who didn’t fit into the world and made up for it with some fancy similes such as “I was still pink/ like an underripe/ tomato” or “I grew up tall and thin/ and frustrated/ like a weed.”
These similes sound clever and urban, don’t they? Like they came from The Catcher in the Rye, and all.
Then the narrator postulates on his own death (probably still skinny). Then the reader laughs, and a few hours later the reader starts to wonder if there’s anything about themselves that they will have to endure forever. How do people learn to accept fingernails that break or tiny eyes, or something worse, like selfishness? What if it’s impossible to change…or what if it’s possible, but you haven’t worked out your own character yet?
And that is how to have an existential crisis in 2.3 seconds flat. I’m starting to believe that art’s function is to produce existential crises.
If you are interested, you may find more of Conrad’s poems at this link. Other titles include Immortal!; The Talent, the soul, the skill; and Snarl. Be enticed, internet!
-Jessica, your friendly neighborhood Helicon Blogger