Thou poem of lost attention and half try,
do you fear more the inner world or outer?
I do not love the self less than the others,
my name is legion and my mouth one cry.
Thou poem of the unwell, of the dry well and doom,
and the snake’s on your lip, in you the toad persists.
Did we come here just to read of what exists?
I champ at my winter bit to be in bloom.
But what’s the difference between you, poem, and the flower?
Don’t both break from the compost as long as it may be?
You are the one who knows what metaphor
and imposes it. Two dandelions are not similar to me.
Thou song of all-powerful individuality,
if only I could rest in you escaping me…
You would never again be troubled by the nudity
of the mother, or the Heart Fall’s killing roar
as you slid toward it, catafalqued on the fluid
descents of a new old world, shrouded in greenwood.
Thou ignorant epic of half-knowing ever more,
thanks in thought’s ruin for reminding me.
A. F. Moritz, “Thou Poem,” from The Sentinel (House of Anansi Press, 2008). Copyright © 2008 A.F. Moritz.
Source: The Sentinel (House of Anansi Press, 2008).
- This poem is a conversation between a speaker (a poet) and their poem. What words does the poet use to describe their poem? How does the poet feel about their poem?
- What is the poem saying back to the speaker in italics? How do you read the tone of the poem’s replies – defiant? soothing? angry?
- What do you think of the poet’s choice to use archaic language with the use of words like “thou” and “catafalque”?
- 4) In stanza 3, the poet mentions, "snakes on your lip" and "the toad" as metaphors. These animals are often used in fables and legends. Do you know of any such stories that might add some texture to your understanding of these metaphors?
- If you were reciting this poem, how would you use your voice to differentiate between the two voices in the poem? How do you think you can use different tones of voice to differentiate the voices? Do the tones need to be extremely different? Or could you communicate this through rhythm and phrasing? Consider your volume, pacing, and breath.
- Writing activity: Think about the last piece of writing you did (a poem, essay, a text message) and consider how you feel about your style of writing. What do you think it would say back to you? Write a response to it and use italics, like A. F. Moritz did, to differentiate between your voice and the writing’s voice.
Check out some more poems about poems here!
This clip features A.F. Moritz reading ‘Thou Poem’ for an audience.