Best Thing I’ve Read Today: Brian Teitman

20 Feb

A few weeks ago, the poet Ryan Teitman read some of his poems at The Big Big Mess reading series in Akron, OH. While Teitman has authored a fine collection of poems, Litany for the City (BOA Editions, 2012), he primarily read new material at the event. One of these newer poems was the fabulous “Archipelago,” which originally appeared in issue 26.1 of Gulf Coast. The opening lines of the poem read as follows:

A bird is a kind
of island. In flight,
a flock is called

an archipelago.
At rest, a peninsula.
When two flocks

meet, they are called
a communion.
Used in a sentence:

Two flocks
met and became
a communion.

A bird is an island, and a flock of birds is an archipelago or a peninsula (depending on movement). These transformations continue throughout the entirety of the poem–which can be found at Gulf Coast’s website–and become increasingly more bizarre and beautiful, until we discover that:

Then the body
is a kind of nothing.
A nothing is a kind

of bird

Slipping from image to image and idea to idea, the poem exhibits a protean flux that challenges both ontological and linguistic certainties.

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