Check out Episode 1 for info about how this series works.
My grandfather, Norm Solomon, taught me all the dirty limericks I know. When we were younger, my brothers and I used to decorate his bald head with markers and candy and ornaments of all sorts after he fell asleep on our hardwood floor. After my friend Brad (who will read in an upcoming episode) met my grandfather for the first time, he said, “It’s ironic that your grandfather’s name is Norm because he’s definitely not normal.” Norm Solomon is a vodka drinking, kishka barbecuing, joke cracking crooner. Crooner because he has an excellent Sinatra-esque singing voice, and also, as you’ll soon discover, a wonderful reading voice. I knew I wanted to have my grandfather read Stuart Ross. Stuart’s poetry is surreal and funny and not normal in the most wonderful way. When I gave my grandfather a poem called “Beans” from Stuart’s book A Hamburger in a Gallery, I thought it would be a good fit because it’s an absurd little piece and because my grandfather taught me every variation of the “musical fruit” rhyme in existence. So his answers to the questions below surprised me a little. I wasn’t expecting him to find this poem to be particularly dark or depressing. But that’s what I love about this series. I’m learning so much about the interpretability of poetry and how different words and moods and images stand out to different people. So here’s my grandfather reading “Beans”:
What was your first impression of the poem?
Sadness and confusion
Which line of the poem do you like best?
“He laughed because an onion made him cry”
I never experienced laughing when crying. What a great use for an onion.
What does this poem make you think of?
Despair and coldness
Are there any words in this poem that you don’t understand?
Would you like to understand them?
Have you encountered a poem like this before? Is this poem different from what you expected poetry to be like? If so, How?
Yes, from you kind of. Not really.
Do you have any questions for the poet?
Why was it written?
Norm Solomon is 75. He loves traveling and contemporary singers. He also enjoys looking after people in need.