In Praise of Noise

James Arthur Click to

James Arthur has received a Wallace Stegner Fellowship, the Amy Lowell Traveling Poetry Scholarship and a Discovery/ The Nation Prize. His first poetry collection, Charms Against Lightning, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press. His poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Ploughshares and Narrative. In 2012 he will be in residence at the Amy Clampitt House in Lenox, Massachusetts.

          The sound begins with a furnace
clicking awake in a two-room house, answered
by a few, then more, voices: gauges,

and old-fashioned watches ticking out of synch, in growing number,
so their tip-tip-tip fattens to a moan, joined

by a horn’s upbeat honkity-honk, then ringtones and speakers
rehearsing drawn horsehair, air in a woodwind, mimicking

a hand slapping a polyester drumhead, but unlike
          these coarser frictions, playing the same, every time.
A car door bangs, a jackhammer hammers, and a bassline

          purrs through a wall. The sound congeals,
sucking in more, a mechanical syrup in an IV drip, the automatic

          ruckus of a robotic ocean, a symphony
                   no one wrote, confounding every pattern:

teach me the song that no one can sing, someday
          to be the song of everything.


4 Responses to In Praise of Noise

  1. Alarie Tennille says:

    I’m delighted that Shenandoah has gone on line. So far I’ve only read Linda Pastan’s poem of the week and this one, and I’ve loved both enough to pass them on. Reading your journal could take quite a while at this rate. Both these poems make me sit and ponder a moment after my first thought, “Wish I’d said that.”

  2. Thank you. I enjoy the experience of noise which is cacophonous to compose to but word by word elicits such pleasure. I must share this with my musician friends who don’t read poetry.

  3. Richard Atwood says:

    Re: Alarie’s comment
    Never thrilled with technology.
    Nothing like a book in the hand to hold and smell,
    taste… like a lover near, no photograph or holograph.
    Imagine the kiss of air, and all the thought
    that disappears… we are, of course, temporary —
    and even quicker than before: because of today.

    Re: Rosemary
    I wish there were a law that music (and it is unwelcome noise) were banned from ALL public places and instances, where you did not go there to specifically hear it being played/performed. Being as irritable as cigar smoke and cess pools, if you don’t want to smell them.

  4. Pingback: Take a Poem, Leave a Poem II | Andrea Beltran

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