“I Don’t Understand Poetry” by Jill M. Talbot

Ekphrastic Challenge, June 2016: Artist’s Choice


Photo by James Croal Jackson
Photograph: “Go Your Own Way” by James Croal Jackson. “I Don’t Understand Poetry” was written by Jill M. Talbot for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, June 2016, and selected by Jackson as the Artist’s Choice winner.

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Jill M. Talbot


Where are these people walking?
They are walking in a poem.
But it is not my poem,
so I do not understand it.

And they are walking in twos,
so perhaps it’s not a poem.
A poem is ventured through alone.

I seen a sign, Smile if you masturbate,
so is that a poem?

Only if you smile?

Are you smiling?

Don’t worry, it’s just a poem.
I won’t tell.

If I lived in a poem it would be Ginsberg.
Because I hate Ginsberg.
And these people don’t know the half of it.
Walking, walking, walking.

If they get somewhere,
I guess it’s not a poem.
Unless they get to hell.

I may be overthinking this.
I never understood poetry.
I’m also stuck in a poem
paved by panhandlers.

I seen a sign. I seen too many.
I seen a white sky calling out
our less than good intentions.

But is that a poem?

Ekphrastic Challenge, June 2016
Artist’s Choice Winner

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Comment from the artist, James Croal Jackson , on his selection: “It was an honor reading through so many excellent poems inspired by my photograph, but this is the one that rattled in my head longest after reading—made me realize, you know, I really don’t understand poetry, and I don’t really understand this poem, but I ventured through it alone and now all I’m doing is walking, walking, walking through poems every day in the real world (maybe). I don’t know. This poem is meta and funny and philosophical and unexpected. It won’t leave my head. I had to choose it.” (website)

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