Carver’s “Ultramarine” and Narrative in Poetry

This was my favorite collection of poetry read in 2015. Carver’s poetry reads very easily for me, especially compared to a lot of other contemporary stuff. His poems have such an unshakable narrative anchor -a crutch that my not-particularly-poetic brain gloms onto with greed and eagerness. I still take my sweet time with the things, reading over some lines half a dozen times and lingering on specific words and passages (I guess I’m trying to communicate that I still read them likes poems, regardless of their narrative qualities).

Because these things are poems. When I had my 8th graders read “Wine” (from “A New Path to the Watefall”) it wasn’t even a matter of discussion; as difficult as it was for some of them to articulate the specific things that separate such a narrative poem from a short story, they were all convinced that it was indeed a poem.

I’ve said that Carver’s poetry is the most potently distilled narrative I’ve ever encountered, and I stand by that. “Ultramarine” has some of the best examples of this, and the thematic linking (it’s hard to find a poem without even a literal incarnation of flowing water) is an interesting aspect as well. This is poetry for people who don’t like poetry, and for people who do.

Recommendation: Read it! The most cohesive and consistently good collection of Carver poems I’ve read yet.

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