Mary Karr has two fantastic poems in Poetry magazine this month about suicide. The links are below. Well, to be honest, I suppose they are kind of about…
Anyway, Wallace committed suicide almost exactly four years ago— on September 12, 2008. These two new poems are pretty clearly inspired by him and by his death. And they are damn near masterpieces, I say.
I don’t have to offer much in the way of evidence that DFW is the inspiration—Karr and he dated. He even got her name tattooed on his shoulder. Beyond that, if you have read much Wallace, you’ll pick up a few references.
In April of 2011, Maud Newton wrote an essay mildly critical of Wallace’s influence on his generation. His work, she argued, “prefigures many of the worst tendencies of the Internet.” The nerdy blogosphere lit her up for that calumny. (I’d offer links, but who cares. They exist.) Never mind Newton also said that the essay in question was “one of his best and most charming essays.” She had an ill word for the late one, the great one, and took a few shots for it.
In Karr’s first poem linked below, “Read These,” she seems to have such Wallace fans in mind. And if she heard about our sensitivities, she clearly does not give a damn. Here's how it opens:
The King saith, and his arm swept the landscape’s foliage into bloom
where he hath inscribed the secret mysteries of his love
before at last taking himself away. His head away. His
recording hand. So his worshipful subjects must imagine
themselves in his loving fulfillment, who were no more
than instruments of his creation. Pawns.
Youch. To commit another literary fallacy by incorporating a poet’s personality into a the reading of a poem, let me say I saw Mary Karr read once in 2004. Everything she said was hilarious, and she struck me as the sort of person I would not want to piss off. Nerdy blogosphere, take heed.
So, no. Neither of the following poems are about David Foster Wallace. They’re much better than being limited to him. But if you care about Wallace, then read, as she says, these:
“Suicide’s Note: An Annual”