Poetry of the Suburbs
I confess to liking the suburbs. I'm fully aware of all the unpleasantness and conformity and drudgery of them. I marvel at the aesthetic horribleness the same as everyone else does.
In spite of these things, I insist that there is poetry in the suburbs, too. There is, of course, the kind of poetry that disparages. I'm okay with that. Michael Blumenthal describes "lawns groomed in prose" in his poem "Suburban." Fair enough.
Dave Lucas's poem, "Suburban Pastoral" begins:
Twilight folds over houses on our street;
its hazy gold is gilding our front lawns,
delineating asphalt and concrete
driveways with shadows. Evening is coming on,
quietly, like a second drink, the beers
men hold while rising from their plastic chairs
to stand above their sprinklers, and approve.
All I'm saying, really, is that there are things worth noticing here, too. The way evening comes on "quietly, like a second drink." And though the houses in the suburbs are conventional, and there is a high level of conformity, there is also beauty here. There is certainly quirkiness. In summer especially, there is an effort being made to keep things nice, to add a little beauty to the world in the form of blossoming trees, rock arrangements, flowers.
The suburbs, too, have a history.
Whenever I start thinking about the suburbs, I can't help thinking of the song by Arcade Fire, "The Suburbs." Below you'll find their song with scenes from the short film "Scenes from the Suburbs" by Spike Jonze. It's honestly pretty intense stuff.
I grew up in the suburbs, riding my bike around with a friend while our parents were at work, going to the convenience store to buy candy and slushy drinks. We weren't terribly rebellious. We'd sometimes ride to the library. Canadian suburbs have their own feel to them, too, I think. They were pretty tame, but if you wanted to get into trouble, it wasn't too difficult to find it. Looking back, it's pretty surprising how there was some minimal level of respect for the nerdy kids. We were smiled at and left alone. When school was in we'd help the less nerdy kids with their school work. That probably helped. Nowadays the suburbs are different, quieter, for all the obvious reasons. But the kid on the next street over died of a drug overdose a few months ago. When I'm out walking the dog I see young women meeting guys in sports cars two streets away from where they live. I see what must be drug deals going on. There's a toothless gentleman wearing a suit who smiles very widely who sits in the bus shelter for hours and never gets on a bus, but probably knows all sorts of things that go on in the neighbourhood. I think he's a bit of poetry himself.