This seems like an excellent way to jump into one of the new major focuses of this blog: poetry in popular culture. Though there's certainly nothing "lowbrow" about Call the Midwife (I leave the closed captions on to catch every inscrutable turn of phrase, from British slang to the spelling of "Mother Jesu Emmanuel," "Akela," and "Babycham") but to me, the intersection of poetry with television, even verbose British period pieces, is fascinating because of one's mass appeal and the other's undeniably niche status.
And yet, even writing that phrase feels untrue, which is what has spurred me to, at last, revamp this blog and share the fruits of my longstanding interest in the intersection of poetry with popular culture...
Around that time, the city grew quiet.
*WARNING: CONTAINS WALKING DEAD SPOILERS*
My mother recently discovered the glory of Netflix, and has been making her way through The Walking Dead. As a longtime fan, I love hearing her experience the characters and their struggles anew. The other day she called me as I was strolling through the well-stocked aisles of Target (that red-and-white symbol of capitalist, first-world, everything-is-ok safety) to talk about Hershel Greene (played by Scott Wilson), the stubborn, patriarchal farmer the group first encounters in season two.
"It's so ridiculous," she said on the other end of the line. "He doesn't want to kill the zombies because he thinks he can save them. He's hauling their snapping corpses out of the swamp and keeping them in a barn. I mean, come on!"
"But don't you think people are like that?" I countered, "In the way that they hold onto what they know? In their desperation to believe?"
"He's out of his mind. How could you look at one of those things and think you could save it?"
She had a point.
My mind drifted to her incredulity again when I was rereading one of my favorite poems, "Apocalypse," by Kevin Prufer, from his 2008 collection National Anthem. The world we enter in this poem is a blasted one. There are no undead creatures here, but the real danger of violence between human beings is very much alive. The dominant speaker (the "I") and the submissive "you" character traverse an empty landscape where we learn that "the TVs stopped bothering us," where "it rained and all the bodies in the graveyard washed away." In a world where little makes sense, these characters cling desperately to their humanity, to at least a semblance of normal, if menacing, human relations.
Even in what appears to be an apocalypse, the speakers relate to their circumstances through the metaphor of narrative, of cinema, particularly when the speaker says "As in a film of the apocalypse..."
CAITLIN COWAN has been getting way too excited about setting poetry up on a blind date with popular culture since the early 1990s. This is her website.