Poetry that will throw you for a loop

Superloop
Nicole Callihan’s book, “SuperLoop” comes out Feb. 20.
Credit: Hillery Stone/Re Jin Lee

Poetry often gets a bad rep. Poems written by the greats, like Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allan Poe, are often deemed too depressing and somber. But lighthearted poetry about love or the beauty of a quiet snowfall are often written off as too frilly and not profound enough.

It’s rare that someone gets it right, but Nicole Callihan has managed the feat in her new book “SuperLoop,” out Feb. 20. Callihan’s poetry juxtaposes the happy and the sad while exploring themes from her childhood that most everyone can relate to.

Capturing the innocence of early life through a grown-up lens, she writes about sweet first kisses and hard realizations, like when she first discovered that her parents had flaws. The book’s title poem is about riding a roller coaster, and Callihan gave Metro readers the first look:

The SuperLoop
Port-a-potties sit
dumb as ducks in a row
while I fly by
carnival-style-mad
on a three ticket ride
in the Texas sky.
I lose my sandals
on the swings,
give long eyes
to bumper car boys
for a free go around
’til I slam into
unexpectant mothers
who try to smile —
twelve toothed and weary
of no-name cigarettes.

This is the way
the Tilt-a-Whirl ends
not with a smile
but with a nice ass whisper.

And a flower-fisted girl
tells me eatin’ armadillos’ll
make ya vomit

while her dixie-flag-clad
brother fills my iced tea
and her arch-back daddy
says the only things in life
worth breathing over
are women, horses
and reincarnation.

 

Poetry 101

Check out Nicole Callihan’s tips for crafting the perfect poem:

Get in the right mindset: “Take a walk. Drink something warm. Curse at winter. Nurse the hangover or the sick parent or the baby. Shuttle the kids off to school. Do whatever it takes to clear the mind.”

On what mood you should be in: ”For me, it’s just the feeling that matters. As long as I’m actively feeling and not wandering around with my thumb on my iPhone and head in the clouds, I find I have access to poems.”

On formatting and prose: “Listen to the breath; it rarely leads you astray. Let the lines fall where they may.”

What a poem should accomplish: “Some poems are ding-dongs; some are foie gras. A poem should be exactly what it is. It should be and be and be.”

Who to share your poetry with: “All poems are meant to be shared. Maybe not with everyone, but someone — even if it’s just your mother.”

 

Poetry party
Celebrate the release of “SuperLoop” with Nicole Callihan
Feb. 20, 7 p.m.
Poets House
10 River Terrace, 212-431-7920
www.poetshouse.org

Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmLaurence


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