Biography of Trakl
Trakl failed gymnasium,
Whose graduates now study him.
Latin and logic passed through his mind.
His senses sowed the wind,
And when he struck out on his own
He spent enough on wine to support a town
And irony, which took no rest,
Found him work as a pharmacist—
Pain and release in a widening range
Of tablet, powder, and syringe
While, from the fog of fading days,
Flashed poems (like parentheses)
That confessed in code his heart’s true aims:
His sister filled his dreams.
Want and toxins swelled in his blood
Until the Great War arrived; beneath its cloud.
For a few weeks he tended a wounded host,
Then drained the vial that dissolved him at last.
Mr. Smith has the following to say About “Biography of Trakl”: This is a strange poem, and one that took at last six years to find its present form. The poem itself represents a departure for at least two reasons that I know of. First, my other formal poems do not use slant rhymes at all. Second, my poems almost never explicitly address poets or any other literary figures. While I will never know why this poem has not been previously accepted for publication, I believe past rejections have stemmed from either the poem’s subject or the combination of subject and form. While little to none of Trakl’s own work consisted of rhymed couplets, their use in two-line stanzas involves quick movement from one thought to the next and may at some remove reflect the rhetoric of his poems.
J.D. Smith’s third collection, Labor Day at Venice Beach, will be published in August by Cherry Grove Collections, and in 2007 he was awarded a Fellowship in Poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts. Individual poems have appeared in 32 Poems, 99 Poems for the 99 Percent, Nimrod and Tar River Poetry. Smith has also published a children’s book and an essay collection, and his first humor collection is forthcoming later this year.