I was afraid to read it. I had just listened to the poem during an online newscast, and it included it so many jarring and disturbing images that I thought I must have misheard it.
Then again, it was written by a successful Hollywood star, so it certainly must be worthy of publication.
So, motivated by two impulses, I sought out the text. My first reason was that I did not wish to misjudge the writer, based on my shallow initial impression. The second was that I really did want to discover if it was as odd as I perceived it to be.
It is from the heart and pen of Kristen Stewart, who played the leading role in the Twilight series. It is described as a “love poem,” which is helpful to know in advance . . . since that might not be how one might inadvisably approach it.
I reared digital moonlight
You read its clock, scrawled neon across that black
Kismetly . . . ubiquitously crest fallen
Thrown down to strafe your foothills
. . . I’ll suck the bones pretty.
Your nature perforated the abrasive organ pumps
Spray painted everything known to man,
Stream rushed through and all out into
Something Whilst the crackling stare down sun snuck
Through our windows boarded up
He hit your flint face and it sparked.
And I bellowed and you parked
We reached Marfa.
One honest day up on this freedom pole
Devils not done digging
He’s speaking in tongues all along the pan handle
And this pining erosion is getting dust in
And I’m drunk on your morsels
And so I look down the line
Your every twitch hand drum salute
Salutes mine . . .
Overwhelming. I was actually tempted to use the word “pretentious,” until I read the following note about the magazine interview during which she shared the verse.
Before reading the poem, Kristen told the mag, “I don’t want to sound so f—ing utterly pretentious…but after I write something, I go, ‘Holy f—, that’s crazy.’ It’s the same thing with acting: If I do a good scene, I’m always like, ‘Whoa, that’s really dope.’”
After seeing that comment, with its sadly limited vocabulary, I can picture her composing her poetry dictionary and thesaurus in hand.
The poem’s significance takes a moment to sink into one’s mind . . . even if our brains are not clouded by being drunk on someone’s morsels. The poem is, in fact, so rich in meaning that it required two distinct titles: “Freedom Pole” and “My Heart is a Wiffle Ball.”
I dabble in poetry, but don’t consider myself a poet. So, I’m probably not the one to judge.
I would be curious to know what the newest addition to the Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey would think of Stewart’s work. C.S. Lewis wrote poetry himself, of course, although he is much better known for his other literary contributions.
In English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, Lewis describes the poetry of Samuel Daniel. “Though Daniel’s poetry is often uninspired, sometimes obscure, and not seldom simply bad, he has two strong claims on our respect.” I wonder if Lewis’ gracious nature might lead him to discern two strengths in Stewart’s poetic corpus.
In contrast to the previous evaluation, Lewis considered the poetry of Dante Alighieri to be masterful. In Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature, Lewis writes:
I think Dante’s poetry, on the whole, the greatest of all the poetry I have read: yet when it is at its highest pitch of excellence, I hardly feel that Dante has very much to do. . . . I draw the conclusion that the highest reach of the whole poetic art turns out to be a kind of abdication, and is attained when the whole image of the world the poet sees has entered so deeply into his mind that henceforth he has only to get himself out of the way, to let the seas roll and the mountains shake their leaves or the light shine and the spheres revolve, and all this will be poetry, not things you write poetry about.
Dare I confess that after Dante even Shakespeare seems to me a little factitious? It almost sounds as if he were “just making it up.” But one cannot feel that about Dante even when one has stopped reading him.
That’s the sort of verse that poets should always strive for—“the highest reach of the whole poetic art [which] turns out to be a kind of abdication.” Word dabblers such as myself are unlikely to ever attain such a lofty goal.
It may be that Stewart has kismetly attained these heights. But then again, perhaps she still has a little farther to travel before she reaches Marfa.