Love Garrison Keillor's perspective on what qualifies as a "good poem"--"these are poems that made people stop chewing their toasted muffins and turn up the radio and listen and later zip into our website and get the dope on the poet." These poems all appeared on NPR's Writer's Almanac--and there wonderful. Some duds, but mostly "good"--i.e.,Thomas Lux's poem, stopped me chewing, too. In fact, many of them did. I'll be pulling out this book every day for moments of good poems and heading to the interet to get some more "dope."
Here's a bit from Thomas Lux's The Swimming Pool
The Swimming Pool
All around the apt. swimming pool
the boys stare at the girls
and the girls look everywhere but the opposite
or down or up. It is
as it was a thousand years ago: the fat
boy has it hardest, he
takes the sneers,
prefers the winter so he can wear
his heavy pants and sweater.
Today, he's here with the others.
Better they are cruel to him in his presence
than out. Of the five here now (three boys,
two girls) one is fat, three cruel,
and one, a girl, wavers to the side,
all the world tearing at her.
As yet she has no breasts
(her friend does) and were it not
for the forlorn fat boy whom she joins
in taunting, she could not bear her terror,
which is the terror
of being him. Does it make her happy
that she has no need, right now, of ingratiation,
of acting fool to salve
her loneliness? She doesn't seem
so happy. She is like
the lower middle class, that fatal group
handed crumbs so they can drop a few
down lower, to the poor, so they won't kill
the rich. All around
the apt. swimming pool
there is what's everywhere: forsakenness
and fear, a disdain for those beneath us
rather than a rage
against the ones above: the exploiters,
the oblivious and unabashedly cruel.