We have examined each poem of Best American Poetry 2002 and have found Steve Malmude’s “Perfect Front Door,” Louise Gluck’s “Reunion,” and Ira Sadoff “Self-Portrait with Critic” to have messages that resonate the most with us. We have identified these poems as having accessible and meaningful language which compliments it’s meaning, making it worthy of introduction to the minds of our generation. They are also representative of our volume as a whole which attempted to heal the broken soul of grieving Americans by shedding light on our abilities and encouraging us to look past the limitations we put one ourselves and others put on us.
After reading Best American Poetry 2002, one poem that that resonated with me was Steve Malmude “Perfect Front Door.” Malmude develops a timeless voice allowing his message to be accessible to many readers. Though it has the ability to reach a broad audience, I feel it has a strong personal connection to our generation. He addresses his feelings of discomfort and longing for his liberation as it slips away from him once again. The poem consists of four short quatrains, allowing the poem to have movement through thought and time as well as invites the reader to experience a similar train of thought. There is a contradiction between the time shift in the poem and the fact that the poem is only an instant in the author’s life, which helped me as the reader under different times in our lives allow us to have different perspectives. For him at this time, he listened to life go on outside of his apartment with jealousy as he claimed, “My summer/ is threadbare/these jeans/ are chains.” Using his jeans as the symbol for limitations on his free will demonstrate his hunger for independence which he later confirms in say, “always the sense/ of the futility of maintenance.” It calls the reader to question if labor is useless then why do we do it? Why do we all our lives if laborless life is more freeing? These questions are relevant to our generation as we enter adulthood and prepare to take on responsibility for our decision making. It is important to look to the future and understand how influential the tasks we are faced with are.
The next poem, Louise Gluck’s “Reunion,” has a message that is relatable to most. She discusses the relationship between two people, and how it was able to evolve over time. Two people, a man and a woman, were originally very close, but were separated for 20 years. Most would expect that after this long period of time, if reunited, they would lack similarities and be unable to connect like they used to. Despite the popular opinion, they reconnect, and “it is discovered they like each other, despite enormous differences (one a psychiatrist, one a city official).” They had gone on with their lives, being exposed to new things and living different lives, however deep down they were both the same person that they were twenty years prior. This poem is very relatable, especially being a High School senior. Most of us are going to go off to college and go our separate ways, not seeing each other for a long stretch of time, or even ever again. Eventually, though, I am sure some will meet back up, reminiscing on the times they had in High School. I think it is important for students to understand that a period of separation does not mean nothing will ever be the same again. Things, and places will change, but the person you are deep down may not, and therefore it is possible to have an even better connection with someone you knew when you were young.
The final poem that I think students should study is “Self-Portrait With Critic” By Ira Sadoff. This poem, like the others, has a message that appeals to students in High School, and can relate to struggles that many would be exposed to. This poem talks about someone who is constantly judged based on his appearance, and is always assumed to be someone that he is really not. It really frustrates him, as he says “One idiot took me for a Vietnam vet. He said I have that tattooed damaged look.” In High School, many people struggle with their identity, and who they are. People are commonly judged based off of their appearance, and are just automatically assumed to be something based off of what they look like. It is an important message, and an important idea for people to understand and relate to. Sadoff warns readers to proactive in developing empathy for those around them. Being able to identify the faults in stereotypes about your identity as well as the ones you place one others with help build a sense of confidence and help you become a more approachable person.