Poem of the Week | July 27, 2020

This week’s Poem of the Week is “Philosophers Tell Us About Forms” by Christine Gosnay!

Christine Gosnay’s first book, Even Years (Kent State University Press, 2017), won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize. Her work has been selected for Best American Poetry 2020, has appeared recently in POETRY, Image Journal, AGNI, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Poetry Review, Ecotone, and Bennington Review, and has featured on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily. Her chapbook, The Wanderer, is the 2019 title in Beloit Poetry Journal’s Chad Walsh Chapbook series. She lives in California.


Philosophers Tell Us About the Form

Over and over they say things resemble
not so much what they hold
but what they vaguely conceal.

I grow excited when someone makes a mistake.
Errors reveal the world that shimmers past
our way to see, a secret place that’s waiting

for us to wander in.
Whatever the means of trespass,
whether the eye, the lip, the hand,

the promise that the perverse skin
will have the right to hold close
its mysterious prize

with no cloth in the way of delight’s sensation.
The noumenal world is a close embrace,
a discovery made repeatedly and abandoned

once taken hold in. Even a very smart man
can only make nonsense of himself
once he has fallen into the arms of a piano.


Author’s Note

My interest in philosophy has always been pretty superficial, as I prefer to just stare at things until something happens to me and then go on with my life. To think or read about it more would ruin the thing. But the notion of noumena and phenomena is always occurring to me when I look at things. How can I get past the thing (the phenomenon) to the idea or form of it (the noumenon)? Is it looking for so long, say at a piano, until “something happens to me” the pure idea or form of the piano finally revealing itself? Where exactly is the form? I often daydream about these forms sleeping behind a haze, then stirring up as dazzling, seductive shapes that want to be touched if only someone could reach them. Imagine if the conscientious philosopher looked away from his work to find a noumenon that he could touch! If he did, I don’t think he would ever write again.