I've lost a poem I loved.
August 21, 2009 4:24 PM   Subscribe

[NewYorkerPoetryFilter] Sometime in the 1990s, the New Yorker published a poem of several verses consisting of the same lines in different order. Please help me find it.

It was one of the most extraordinary things I've ever read, both for its content as well as the sheer brilliance of the structure. I recall perhaps five or six verses, each one eight or ten lines long or so. After the first verse, the second verse consisted of the same lines rearranged, with the addition of one new line. This pattern continued, to where the final verse re-introduced lines from the first. Despite the rigorous structure, the poem grew and evolved and was beautiful. I would love to find it again, and know who wrote it, and see what else he (and I believe the author was a man) has done. I've tried Googling but with no recall of the words or the author, I've struck out. Please, hive mind, help me find this beauty.
posted by woot to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Penn Station and Sonnet XXI (mp3) by Ted Berrigan [a New Yorker, but maybe not in the New Yorker] are sort of like this [lines rearranged] but don't sound exactly right as they're not in multiple verses.
posted by jessamyn at 4:39 PM on August 21, 2009

The New Yorker's archive section is searchable. Try "poem" as a keyword, then sort by date. It may take some clicking, but you might hit upon something that you recognize.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:47 PM on August 21, 2009

No idea what the poem is, but could you be looking for a sestina? An example.
posted by lubujackson at 5:16 PM on August 21, 2009

There are no results for sestinas, villanelles, or Ted Berrigan in the New Yorker's archives from 1989-2000.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:39 PM on August 21, 2009

I read this and thought it might be a reprint of Donald Justice, "A Dream Sestina", but now that I read it, it doesn't fit your description. (You might like it, though.)
posted by Beardman at 5:39 PM on August 21, 2009

I thought it might be Justice's "There is a gold light in certain old paintings," one of my favorites (printed in the New Yorker in 1997), but there isn't enough repetition, nor is there in any of the other three Justice poems printed in the New Yorker in the 1990s.
posted by Mapes at 6:03 PM on August 21, 2009

Response by poster: Okay, I have to apologize. I have been thoroughly wrong.

1) It wasn't the New Yorker, though I certainly enjoyed reviewing all those poems. It was The Atlantic.

2) It wasn't "the 1990s." It was April 2000.

3) Each stanza wasn't eight or ten lines, but four.

4) It's not one new line per stanza, but two. But they do repeat -- it's not a sestina, but a poem that repeats entire lines.

It's called "Everyone Who Left Us," by Stephen Cramer.

I'm so sorry to have wasted everyone's time -- but please, despite my idiocy, do go read the poem. It's extraordinary.
posted by woot at 6:11 PM on August 21, 2009 [18 favorites]

Woot, I am glad you found the poem. I'm a bit bleary eyed tonight, but I think this is a pantoum - or at least something very close to one. You might like to check out other examples of the form.
posted by katie at 6:28 PM on August 21, 2009

Yep. It's a pantoum. Hard to write, but fun. I've only ever been able to write one. (Scroll down about a quarter of the way--it's called "Peace Movement.") A couple other examples by real poets here.
posted by dlugoczaj at 8:01 PM on August 21, 2009

The last edition of MacSweeney's featured several pantoums (pantoui?)
posted by minifigs at 7:24 AM on August 28, 2009

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