There is much to love about Amy Hosig’s brief poem in this issue (http://pbq.drexel.edu/poetry/hosig-amy_shrimp.php). In its 14 lines, “Shrimp” makes me remember why poetry feels good to read.
Volta. I’m most drawn to the poem’s turns, and the particular nature of what feels like more than a mere turn of thought or change in argument. What Hosig does in a line characterizing her hope that the shrimp she’s about to eat “…spent their life, hopefully, / jetting about” is to hold the reader in a light uncertainty: does she hope the shrimp were hopeful as they jetted about? Or is the hope that they jetted about hers? It’s obviously the latter, but fun as hell to feel the possibility of both before the line breaks and we’re dropped into a more specific thought.
Oddly, it’s like cross-dressing comedian Eddie Izzard’s schtick where he starts nodding his yes, yes, yes, then switches to “oh, no, no” in repeated rhythmic waves. ( I can’t find the exact scene, but check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYcnEonB04E&feature=related )
What the nodding Izzard turns into a hoot of indecision appears more subtly in “Shrimp,” obviously, but it’s there in the duality, the lift, the turn at the ends of key lines.
Or in whole lines doing similar work. Take “make me” in her last stanza:
Oh you little shrimp
died for me,
like the intelligent whale,
able to change you
On one hand the poem feels like a classic Christian intercession prayer. But “make me” makes us feel that moment of limbo once more: we expect the next line to be “happy” or “thankful”—the simply statement of the emotion that’s been “jetting about” this poem of gratitude: You make me happy.
But instead, Hosig’s prayer is for metamorphosis– her own, specifically, and ours, by dint of reading the poem as it unfolds. Her prayer for the dead is also a prayer for the living. And it’s in the way the line “make me” makes a promise, makes us wait, and delivers something more than what she’s made us think will come. The experience of uncertainty and surprise gets built into the structure of the poem.
Poesis, vates— poet as maker, seer; dulce et utile, baby, dulce et utile. Happy poetry month.