I admit I was not familiar with poet Gregory Pardlo's work before it was announced last week that he had won the Pulitzer Prize for his book, Digest. Apparently, that was a common reaction to the announcement. He is not well-known, but, based on what I've read over the last few days, perhaps he deserves to be.
His poems - at least the ones that I've now read - seem very descriptive. He paints vivid pictures with his words, and many of the poems seem firmly based on childhood experiences or childhood scenes observed. Such is the case with his poem "Double Dutch" which paints a picture of girls jumping rope and of a jumper who "stair-steps into mid-air as if she's jumping rope in low-gravity." Can't you just see it?
The girls turning double-dutch
bob & weave like boxers pulling
punches, shadowing each other,
sparring across the slack cord
casting parabolas in the air. They
whip quick as an infant’s pulse
and the jumper, before she
enters the winking, nods in time
as if she has a notion to share,
waiting her chance to speak. But she’s
anticipating the upbeat
like a bandleader counting off
the tune they are about to swing into.
The jumper stair-steps into mid-air
as if she’s jumping rope in low-gravity,
training for a lunar mission. Airborne a moment
long enough to fit a second thought in,
she looks caught in the mouth bones of a fish
as she flutter-floats into motion
like a figure in a stack of time-lapse photos
thumbed alive. Once inside,
the bells tied to her shoestrings rouse the gods
who’ve lain in the dust since the Dutch
acquired Manhattan. How she dances
patterns like a dust-heavy bee retracing
its travels in scale before the hive. How
the whole stunning contraption of girl and rope
slaps and scoops like a paddle boat.
Her misted skin arranges the light
with each adjustment and flex. Now heather-
hued, now sheen, light listing on the fulcrum
of a wrist and the bare jutted joints of elbow
and knee, and the faceted surfaces of muscle,
surfaces fracturing and reforming
like a sun-tickled sleeve of running water.
She makes jewelry of herself and garlands
the ground with shadows.