Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Talking about Jesus with Little Richard

I basically detest poems that are longer than a dozen lines or so, but I am always willing to make an exception for David Kirby, whose brilliant poem about Little Richard and Jesus showed up this morning on Poetry Today.

Kirby’s style of writing wittily combines stand-up comedy with real insight and irresistible imagery, for example in his genial and totally accurate description of Little Richard’s onstage appearance:

     in his flowing tresses and spangled blue suit,
     he looks like a sea god who has been clipped by a passing

Little Richard’s place in 1950’s rock history is assured because his Good-Golly-Miss-Molly boogie style assaulted the final limits of musical tolerability, simultaneously wedded as it was to the crazy vanity of his own semi-hysterical presence.

Kirby’s discursive poem however eventually turns eerily serious, probably reflecting Little Richard’s career as a born-again Christian preacher, and the poem ends with personal ruminations on dying in the midnight hour—“When the Lord of Night holds out his claw.”

I can't imagine when my turn comes that I will be thinking about Little Richard, but, well, I suppose there are less stimulating possibilities.