Ode to a newspaper article

Below the fold you continue
in two columns, the body of your text
committed now to carry through
after the titillating lede. What’s next

beyond the jump, that brief
moment of vertigo around
your midsection? Briefs
for neither side. You sound

a note of caution at partisan-
ship, strive for balance, blend
levity with gravity. It takes an artisan
to reach such a well-rounded end.

Written for the Read Write Poem prompt, an ode on the body. Links to other responses can be found here.

UPDATE: Just now, catching up on the Christian Science Monitor, I came across a grim reminder that odes and journalism both remain very serious business in some parts of the world:

Saw Wai is a Burmese poet known for his love songs. His eight-line Valentine’s Day ode, about a brokenhearted man in love with a fashion model, was a particularly tender one. But there was one problem.

If read vertically, the first word of each line formed the phrase: “Power Crazy Senior General Than Shwe.”

The senior general himself, head of Burma’s (Myanmar’s) military junta, could not have been amused. The head of the censorship board was urgently called to the capital; the weekly “Love Journal” has been shut down and copies of the offending edition were yanked from newsstands.

Saw Wai is now in jail, where apparently he will spend Feb. 14 in isolation, behind bars.

17 Replies to “Ode to a newspaper article”

  1. I sent a comment to you, but it might have been gobbled up somewhere. So, here it goes again-

    I understood immediately your reference to:
    beyond the jump, that brief
    moment of vertigo around
    your midsection?

    because I get that feeling when I hug someone taller that I am. I have to catch my breath for a second, and then sort of fall into the person. I like how you applied this feeling to a newspaper article.

    My first thought about the poet you cite was, how clever of that guy! But he’s very brave, fighting a dictatorship. Poets and artists are the conscience of humanity.

  2. I get that feeling when I hug someone taller that I am.
    Oh, I’m glad that image worked for you.

    Sorry to hear a comment might have gone astray – I’ll check the spam folder. In any case, thanks for stopping by.

  3. Mmm, I got embroiled in a discussion on another blog recently about whether poetry should be political…….I say absolutely, even if it’s just the personal-political axis. For me politics does not taint poetry, and Sai Wai shows that.

    Your piece is well done, by the way.

  4. Poetry doesn’t have to be political, but it certainly can be and in many cases ought to be. Imagine, for example, trying to write an entire book of nature poems these days without evincing at least some awareness of the manifold threats facing the natural world. It would seem kind of irresponsible, wouldn’t it?

    The problem though is there is so much truly awful political poetry – it’s almost as bad as love poetry for the surfeit of clichés and abstractions. I enjoy the challenge, and usually attempt to ground it either by making it very personal, as you suggest, or by using dramatic monologue. Sometimes it works.

  5. With briefs, body, midsection, and well-rounded end, I kept trying to read a body metaphor into this poem! And yes, there is that vertigo when switching from top fold to bottom.

    The piece on Sai Wai is fascinating. What a very clever, very brave poet. We are so lucky to be able to do anything like that, have we the skill, in our country and never face jail time.

  6. I kept trying to read a body metaphor into this poem
    Well, that was my hope. If it hadn’t been for the prompt, I probably would’ve titled this “Riddle” so that both answers would be allowable, in the ancient tradition of double-entendre riddles.

  7. *splutter*

    Layout day’ll never be the same!

    In all seriousness, that’s marvellous. I just started working in the newspaper world again, and with all its faults (and they’re many) I’m fond of it, and glad to have landed in a corner of it that lets me stay local. (The rest of the paper knows the wire very well, but my few pages all get written by folks who actually live here.) There’s a directness to local papers, an activity, and now I think of it a community and connection and informality, that may have equivalents elsewhere but are not easy to find, all the same.

    And all my stories are laid out in body copy style… which will start me thinking of cloning if I take it too seriously, so I won’t. Point is, that metaphor gets richer the more I consider it, and that’s the mark of a first class one. Thanks!

  8. Thanks, y’all! Kate, I’m happy to hear that this worked for you as a newspaper person. And local reporting is important, usually pretty thankless work – I’m impressed that you’re willing to take it on. (That would I suppose explain the relative paucity of your blog entries of late, wouldn’t it?)

  9. Blast my cab, if… this poem’s not ‘double entendre’ then my name’s not Danny Wise!

    Blast my cab if… is the de-coded anagram of the first letter of each line of ‘ode to a newspaper article.’

    All power to Saw Wai’s pen!

  10. Blast my cab if… is the de-coded anagram of the first letter of each line of ‘ode to a newspaper article.’
    A message direct from my subconscious! If only it meant something.

  11. I keep coming back to read this. I am so taken with its many levels and workings. The line breaks are perfect. The word play, deft.

    This poem moves me. As does your epilogue; I just read of his imprisonment today, myself.

  12. The well-rounded end is the result of sitting on it all day, probably. So much “journalism” these days is repackaging in a new intestine the macerated gristle of others.

    The actions of Saw Wei remind me of the incredible traditions of “double fronted” (so to speak) political verse in Africa about which I know very little indeed. But certainly Jack Mapanje springs to mind.

  13. When I was young and foolish, friends and I, and I am sure others have done the same, would read aloud newspaper articles accross the columns so that lines of words were linked just by chance, with some interesting and sometimes hilarious results.

    Shelley and Byron are good examples of poets who didn’t appear shy of politics.

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