Jan 16, 2010

Thomas Lux, "It's the Little Towns I Like"

It's the Little Towns I Like by Thomas Lux : Poetry Magazine [poem/magazine] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.

In pursuit of more poems that raise the question of conversation compared to poetry, I came across Thomas Lux's "It's the Little Towns I Like." I was looking for a different Lux poem, but the small town theme in the title here caught my eye, and I like what he does with it.

With Lux, I usually do like it. Among contemporary poets, his work creates an unusual balance between accessibility and density. He tells good stories; his frequent anger seems justified, seems to be our anger, or the anger we should have if we weren't lazy and complacent; yet he makes us laugh; and he gives us imagery that's approachable and memorable.

On the side of density, he's almost always in the service of the universal themes, like social injustice, and most of his lines of, say, four words or more offer small gifts of their own as they move toward the larger gift of the whole poem. Surely it's a given that memorable imagery serves both accessibility and density. In short, Lux is no lightweight, but neither is he a tangle of techniques that are all brain, no heart. (Remember Yeats's great line in "Easter 1916": "Too long a sacrifice / Can make a stone of the heart").

Still, in the end--or should I say, "At the end of the day?"--ugh, gag me with a spoon--who started that? More to the point, who were the first few to regurgitate it? They were probably too busy "going forward" and "begging the question" to notice they had jumped on the instant-oats-of-cliche wagon and steered it into the mainstream of TV anchor-speak)--

Speaking of streams, one of Lux's greatest lines is, "If a river could look over its shoulder . . . ."

--Where was I?

In the end, it was Lux's reference to fathers and the similarity to Bob Hicok's "O my pa-pa" (January 2 here at Banjo) that told me I had to post Lux's "It's the Little Towns . . . ." I predict there will be more of Thomas Lux at Banjo52.

It's the Little Towns I Like by Thomas Lux : Poetry Magazine [poem/magazine] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.


Anonymous said...

I like this little poem.

Brenda's Arizona said...

Do you like little town, as Lux describes? He does offer a level of comfort when he describes it. E often reminds me that little towns can be 'gossipy' places. Does Lux hint at that?

Banjo52 said...

AH, control your enthusiasm.

Brenda, I don't hear Lux hinting at gossip here, but in other poems I think I remember it. Whether or not he touches on it, I guarantee you it's there. I miss the slow pace a lot, but not life as a guppy in a fish bowl with recording instruments in the seaweed.

With your father's travel and now Phoenix, I guess you've always been in metro areas. Ditto AH? And I believe all the other semi-regulars here, except maybe for Paula.

Brenda's Arizona said...

In Tennessee we lived in a REAL little town. Quite an anxious place, always waiting for its racial tension to blow. How about you?

Banjo52 said...

Southern Ohio, town of around 2,000 people. No racial tension because it was all white--well, farther out in the hills, the county sometimes had one or two African-American families because of jobs provided by an industry out there. I've sometimes wondered what life was like for those folks. Ditto the one Jewish merchant and two families of Lebanese descent. As far as I know, people were people, but I bet I missed a lot.

Most of the ugliness I heard was Protestant vs. Catholic, but I never heard anything really ugly or intense. Was I lucky or blind or over-protected? All of the above?

As a young adult, I lived in Memphis for three years--which of "the three states of Tennessee" were you in? (won't ask for more specifics than that, but would welcome them).

Brenda's Arizona said...

We lived in the western state, too. Funny to remember the 3 states! I went to Memphis State - back before it was Univ. of M.
Our little town was still controlled by white lightning and racial tensions...

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