Poem of the Week | November 06, 2012

This week we’re featuring a new poem by Kathryn Maris. Maris is from New York City. She has won a Pushcart Prize, an Academy of American Poets award and fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and Yaddo. She lives in London, where she teaches creative writing and writes essays and reviews. The Book of Jobs, published in 2006, was her first collection of poems. Her second collection is forthcoming in spring 2013.

Author’s Note:

This poem is one of a series of formal and formal-ish poems I’ve written, mainly sonnets, portraying discord between lovers. I refer to these poems as “anti sonnets” because they subvert the Petrarchan and Shakespearean convention of sonnets as love poems. The poem featured here, “Knowledge is a Good Thing,” though not a sonnet, has 14 rhyming couplets and a turn, so I consider it an honorary member of my “anti sonnet” group. Although these poems employ the pronoun “I” and are sometimes assumed to be autobiographical, they are in fact fictions whose ‘truth’ is psychic and primal: a fear of loss, abandonment and betrayal. I sometimes think of them as little exorcisms in which those fears—or demons—are outed and excoriated, if only temporarily. This poem, which is a conversation with the devil, takes that task almost literally.

Knowledge is a Good Thing

My mind is open,
so the devil can get in.

 

We speak in the rhythm
of catechism.

 

“Look at this.”
“But it is his.

 

“What’s his is yours.
Look in the drawers.”

 

“I’m forbidden
to know what’s in them.”

 

“You’re his wife.
Dig up his life.”

 

“Will I despair
at what’s in there?”

 

“Better to know
than be in limbo.”

 

“That may be,
but remember the tree?”

 

“The world was built
on sin and guilt.”

 

“If that’s true
it’s thanks to you.”

 

.

 

He was victorious
for I was curious.

 

And there was no pardon
in the garden

 

where I sat
til he came back.

 

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