“Our Best Self”: FSU Poets Celebrate National Poetry Month 2022

Barbara Hamby, Lecturer and Emeritus University Researcher

Alumnus of FSU, Hamby is the author of six books of poetry and was a 2010 Guggenheim Fellow in Poetry. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, The Paris Review, Yale Review, American Poetry Review and many other magazines. Her work has also been featured in Best American Poetry 2000, 2009 and 2010.

“I love poetry because it helps us figure out how to be our best selves,” Hamby said. “Even in its rawest form, poetry aspires to transcendence and beauty.”

This poem was originally published in the print edition of the October 7, 2019 issue of The New Yorker.

Ode On Words For Parties (US edition)

Why do we have so many words for the holidays, a slew
of them once you start searching: shindig, bash,
get-togethers, raves, blowouts, barbecues,
and more lukewarm functions, receptions, lunches and things to do
of all kinds, however, let’s face it, most people have no idea
on how to throw a party, like the complaining friend
because her husband wanted a lot of brunch food
they were planning, but she knew people weren’t going
at parties to eat, and Marsha and I had to break it for him
this brunch was the combination of two meals,
so his guests expected to eat double, and you can’t believe
the shock on her face, but her husband made a lot of noise
and everyone ate and talked, though we’ve all been to those parties
with the bowl of dead fries and the onion dip
looks like cat vomit in the driveway, actually not so good,
but my sister throws a fabulous party, because she is a great cook
and has an army of bottles of wine that keeps marching past,
and her garden is verdant, and she has a swimming pool,
in which some people find themselves at the end of the night. What
would be the word for this kind of party—Vinocoolpool
To party? And the other could be a Kittydip party. And the guests!
They can also spoil a party. Think Music Nazis
who make their way through the world with their one-upmanship,
and your collection of Van Morrison and Jimi Hendrix
is so uncool compared to Mud Stumps and Echo Park,
but only before they give in and become famous
and were no longer cool. Then there are the couples
who are glued at the hip, conjoined twins
by church and state, or bloviators, or drunkards who can turn around
a party in a Godzilla-stomps-Tokyo apocalypse,
like the time the guy with the Ponderosa belt buckle slipped chest first
in a dance move and put a gouge three feet long
in my hardwood floor, and I hadn’t even invited him; it was
my hairdresser’s friend. This party was over. I wanted
everyone out of my house. Or what about the people who live
in the middle of nowhere, and you know
that on the way back you will end up in Hades or in a ditch,
if you’re lucky, what would you call them?
Evenings in the suburbs? Hansel-and-Gretel-Lost-Weekend parties?
I often try to convince my husband to stop
so we’re not crashing, but he reminds me that we’re just settling down
ourselves for serial killers who roam alone
highways in search of poets, and what would you call
this chain of events? Zodiac-After-Party-Stab-Fest?
Post-Bash-Head-Bash? You can see it when I’m not
going to parties, I watch too many true crime shows,
that make you suspicious of your fellow human beings
in the most basic way, and yet we continue to throw parties,
which is an interesting choice of verbs, and English
is full of them – throwing a party, throwing a fit, pitching a tent, pitching
a no-hitter, pitch in, pitch-black, and that’s what the road
It’s like now, and I’d give anything to be at this Kittydip party
two blocks from my house, with the brains of Einstein
yells on the sound system so i can’t hear the guy talking
on how he prepares petri dishes for his research
or the woman who describes a plane ticket fiasco
It wouldn’t even have been interesting if it had happened
for me, but I guess that’s life – a continuum between darkness
and mala foulaa Spanish expression that describes an indifference
so deep that it cannot be disturbed by contempt,
but i remember one of the best parties ever was a wine tasting
set up by an Australian father and son
and at the end everyone was dancing to “Tutti Frutti”
and screaming drunk and in love with the world and I danced
with a crooked lawyer named Booter, whom I’ve never seen
again, and the hangover the next day was a small price to pay
for this crazy mix of Little Richard and Cabernet,
and there was food, yeah, but who remembers what.


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