Name: Lauren Capone
Hometown: New Orleans, LA
Current City: New Orleans, LA
Occupation: poet + currently nearing the end of nursing school
What does poetry mean to you?
Can I read this as what is poetry to me? Poetry is a way of putting under a magnifying glass some aspect of being human. It’s a writer reaching out to a reader, human to human. As you pay attention to the world within and around you, I think you are finding poetry in many places and in various forms. Poetry opens; poetry may address an otherness in you, maybe something you didn’t know was there, and maybe it will ask your questions. As a living thing, poetry is mutable and takes different forms evoking different experiences for different people, but with some common ground.
I don’t like choosing favorites, but two of my current loves are Lydia Davis and Anne Carson.
Why do you like these poets?
Things I like about Lydia Davis: she makes poems out of anything. Poetry is sacred yes, but do less-sacred-seeming things not deserve a place in poems, too? I think they do! It’s like the zen of going to the bathroom or something. Maybe next time you’re in an otherwise mundane situation, you’ll remember the poem you read and you’ll find a window of light in the experience. Also, Lydia Davis is very funny. Anne Carson. Things I like: she’s adventurous with form. Like Lydia Davis, she welcomes everything in poems. Much of her work responds to, or engages with other literature, but she offers it wedged in her own relationship to the literary work, and encourages you to let yourself develop relationships and worlds around literature. I appreciate that she creates a new sphere with older work. Putting stuff in a new sphere = new perspective = learning opportunity = win/world opens up.
I debated for a while about which poem I would engage with for this project. At first, I thought to use a serious poem and make it funny; for instance, I thought to have a cartoon with many writers and literary characters, including T.S. Eliot and his friend J. Alfred Prufrock on a beach wandering for years, trousers rolled and such. I considered Anne Carson’s “Zeus Bits” from her newest, Float. But there are a few reasons I ended up going with Lydia Davis' "Passing Wind" that I think speak to what poetry and art mean to me. First things, it’s funny. I think that we forget that poetry can be funny. So here it is. Louis C.K. once said something like this: that you don’t have to be smart to laugh at a fart joke, but you have to be stupid not to. (I don’t want to call anyone stupid, but I do think this poem is funny.) When I thought to ask friends to be photographed for the piece, I knew it was going in the right direction; I love including friends in my projects—this strengthens the artistic community, and involves more people in poetry and art. As I am finishing up with nursing school, I have a new appreciation for “passing wind.” Flatulence is a sign that the gastrointestinal tract is working properly, and everyone in a hospital wants to hear that. Finally, this poem takes what may be considered a very unpoetic topic and explores the human compassion involved in the narrative. The speaker is primarily concerned with ensuring that her guest is comfortable, and nothing more. Compassion is a powerful thing in our world.
by Lydia Davis
She didn’t know if it was him or the dog. It wasn’t her. The dog was lying there on the living-room rug between them, she was on the sofa, and her visitor, rather tense, was sunk deep in a low armchair, and the smell, rather gentle, came into the air. She thought at first that it was him and she was surprised, because people don’t pass wind in company very often, or at least not in a noticeable way. As they went on talking, she went on thinking it was him. She felt a little sorry for him, because she thought he was embarrassed and nervous to be with her and that was why he had passed wind. Then it occurred to her very suddenly that it might not have been him at all, it might have been the dog, and worse, if it had been the dog, he might think it had been her. It was true that the dog had stolen an entire loaf of bread that morning, and eaten it, and might now be passing wind, something he did not do otherwise. She wanted immediately to let him know, somehow, that at least it was not her. Of course there was a chance that he had not noticed, but he was smart and alert, and since she had noticed, he probably had, too, unless he was too nervous to have noticed. The problem was how to tell him. She could say something about the dog to excuse it. But it might not have been the dog, it might have been him. She could not be direct and simply say, “Look, if you just farted, that’s all right; I just want to be clear that it wasn’t me.” She could say, “The dog ate a whole loaf of bread this morning, and I think he’s farting.” But if it was him, and not the dog, this would embarrass him. Although maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe he was already embarrassed, if it was him, and this would give him a way out of his embarrassment. But by now the smell was long gone. Maybe the dog would fart again, if it was the dog. That was the only thing she could think of—the dog would fart again, if it was the dog, and then she would simply apologize for the dog, whether or not it was the dog, and that would relieve him of his embarrassment, if it was him.
Lauren Capone is a poet, nursing student, and plant enthusiast who lives and writes in New Orleans where she hosts the bread & butter reading series.