I want to be good to myself

Tonight I found this poem by a young poet in this 2008 New Yorker issue. It touched and moved me immensely, though for reasons that I suspect to be private, but it’s also good poetry, in many ways, though not entirely my cuppa. In this review, John Stoehr traces Dickman’s literary lineage back to Kenneth Koch, who I also have reservations about. This New Yorker profile is about both Matthew Dickman and his twin brother Michael, who is also a poet (and sounds far more interesting). Both are certainly worth checking out. Now, for the poem:

Matthew Dickman: Troubles

Marilyn Monroe took all her sleeping pills
to bed when she was thirty-six, and Marlon Brando’s daughter
hung in the Tahitian bedroom
of her mother’s house,
while Stanley Adams shot himself in the head. Sometimes
you can look at the clouds or the trees
and they look nothing like clouds or trees or the sky or the ground.
The performance artist Kathy Change
set herself on fire while Bing Crosby’s sons shot themselves
out of the music industry forever.
I sometimes wonder about the inner lives of polar bears. The French
philosopher Gilles Deleuze jumped
from an apartment window into the world
and then out of it. Peg Entwistle, an actress with no lead roles, leaped from the “H” in the HOLLYWOOD sign
when everything looked black and white
and David O. Selznick was king, circa 1932. Ernest Hemingway
put a shotgun to his head in Ketchum, Idaho
while his granddaughter, a model and actress, climbed the family tree
and overdosed on phenobarbital. My brother opened thirteen fentanyl patches and stuck them on his body
until it wasn’t his body anymore. I like
the way geese sound above the river. I like
the little soaps you find in hotel bathrooms because they’re beautiful.
Sarah Kane hanged herself, Harold Pinter
brought her roses when she was still alive,
and Louis Lingg, the German anarchist, lit a cap of dynamite
in his own mouth
though it took six hours for him
to die, 1887. Ludwig II of Bavaria drowned
and so did Hart Crane, John Berryman, and Virginia Woolf. If you are
traveling, you should always bring a book to read, especially
on a train. Andrew Martinez the nude activist, died
in prison, naked, a bag
around his head, while in 1815 the Polish aristocrat and writer
Jan Potocki shot himself with a silver bullet.
Sara Teasdale swallowed a bottle of blues
after drawing a hot bath,
in which dozens of Roman senators opened their veins beneath the water.
Larry Walters became famous
for flying in a sears patio chair and forty-five helium-filled weather balloons. He reached an altitude of 16,000 feet
and then he landed. He was a man who flew.
He shot himself in the heart. In the morning I get out of bed, I brush
my teeth, I wash my face, I get dressed in the clothes I like best.
I want to be good to myself.


One thought on “I want to be good to myself

  1. that is a beautiful poem and yeah, I can sort of see the lineage or the debt owed to kenneth koch (a poet to whom you should have no reservations) but I think this poem has a more visible heart than much of koch’s work, which is sometimes beautiful and slick and strangely fun and oblique (ok you can have your reservations. the connections in this poem are great not as seeminlgy haphazard as in much of Koch. While the style might be reminscient of Mr. Koch, I say it shares more of a deeper and lyrically human sensibility with Mr. james Schuyler (if we’re gonna fuck with the “new york school of poets”)

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