The New Experience

Suzanne Buffam

Printer-friendly version

I was ready for a new experience.

All the old ones had burned out.

 

They lay in little ashy heaps along the roadside

And blew in drifts across the fairgrounds and fields.

 

From a distance some appeared to be smouldering

But when I approached with my hat in my hands

 

They let out small puffs of smoke and expired.

Through the windows of houses I saw lives lit up

 

With the otherworldly glow of TV

And these were smoking a little bit too.

 

I flew to Rome. I flew to Greece.

I sat on a rock in the shade of the Acropolis

 

And conjured dusky columns in the clouds.

I watched waves lap the crumbling coast.

 

I heard wind strip the woods.

I saw the last living snow leopard

 

Pacing in the dirt. Experience taught me

That nothing worth doing is worth doing

 

For the sake of experience alone.

I bit into an apple that tasted sweetly of time.

 

The sun came out. It was the old sun

With only a few billion years left to shine.

Suzanne Buffam, “The New Experience” from The Irrationalist. Copyright © 2010 by Suzanne Buffam. Reprinted by permission of House of Anansi Press.

Source: The Irrationalist (House of Anansi Press, 2010).

Dive in: 

1. How does the poem’s imagery call on our five senses? What does the speaker see, hear, smell, taste, or touch?

 

2. The act of biting into an apple “that tasted sweetly of time” is a surprising description. When read aloud what herb does “time” sound like? How would reading the poem on the page rather than hearing it out loud change the reader’s understanding? What does the rest of the poem suggest about time?

 

3. Which new experience seems most meaningful to the speaker?

 

4. How is the speaker’s life connected to the sun’s life? Pay attention to images of burning out, smoke, glowing, shade, and light. 

 

5. The tone of this poem is light and breezy, but it also contains words of wisdom. How would you choose to recite it? Would you take on a serious tone or would your recitation be more tongue-in-cheek, and why?

 

6. Writing prompt: write a poem listing places you’ve travelled to and events that are unique to your personal history. Have the poem reveal how these experiences have made you who you are today.

 

Useful links:

 

- Watch a recitation of Buffam’s poem by Poetry in Voice participant, Rebecca Marchetti:

https://www.poetryinvoice.com/watch/rebecca-marchetti-new-experience-suzanne-buffam

 

- Read commentary by Damian Rogers on Buffam’s book The Irrationalist, including about “The New Experience” in Lemon Hound:

https://lemonhound.com/2010/11/02/damian-rogers-on-suzanne-buffams-the-irrationalist/

Dive In by: