The Monday Poem: ‘Loud Music’ by Stephen Dobyns

The Monday Poem is brought to you by Professor Jim Gormley of the English Department. Enjoy!

Loud Music

My stepdaughter and I circle round and round.
You see, I like the music loud, the speakers
throbbing, jam-packing the room with sound whether
Bach or rock and roll, the volume cranked up so
each bass note is like a hand smacking the gut.
But my stepdaughter disagrees. She is four
and likes the music decorous, pitched below
her own voice-that tenuous projection of self.
With music blasting, she feels she disappears,
is lost within the blare, which in fact I like.
But at four what she wants is self-location
and uses her voice as a porpoise uses 
its sonar: to find herself in all this space.
If she had a sort of box with a peephole
and looked inside, what she'd like to see would be
herself standing there in her red pants, jacket,
yellow plastic lunch box: a proper subject
for serious study. But me, if I raised
the same box to my eye, I would wish to find
the ocean on one of those days when wind
and thick cloud make the water gray and restless
as if some creature brooded underneath,
a rocky coast with a road along the shore
where someone like me was walking and has gone.
Loud music does this, it wipes out the ego,
leaving turbulent water and winding road,
a landscape stripped of people and language-
how clear the air becomes, how sharp the colors.

—Stephen Dobyns

In his essay “Writing the Reader’s Life,” Dobyns discussed his view of the creative process: “The act of inspiration is, I think, the sudden apprehension or grasping of metaphor.”

The Monday Poem logoStephen Dobyns has published over a dozen volumes of poetry, including Concurring Beasts (1972), The Balthus Poems (1982), Cemetery Nights (1987), Velocities: New and Selected Poems (1994), Pallbearers Envying the One Who Rides (1999), and The Day’s Last Light Reddens the Leaves of the Copper Beech (2016). Of the governing style of his work over time, Dobyns noted in an interview, “If there’s a consistency in any of the books, it’s the fact that I like a long line … [and] use the linebreak to affect the rhythm of the lines, to affect the rhythm of the poem.” The terms “masculine,” “witty,” and “humane” are frequently used to describe Dobyns’s poetry. His narrative and sometimes absurdist work contains “the juxtaposition of the profane and the exalted,” noted the Alsop Review. A New York Times review of Body Traffic (1990) remarked on the poet’s humor: “Life can be pretty grisly in Mr. Dobyns’s poems. But life isn’t a tragedy in which we are fatally mired. Instead, it is a farce we view from a certain remove.”