Kaleem Hawa‘s poem, ‘Learned Helplessness’, first published in the The Poetry Review last year, is the subject of Katrina Naomi‘s online critique for The Poetry Society’s ‘In Front of the Poem’ series.
It’s a poem that works at speed, Katrina Naomi writes: “I find myself considering how much the box of the prose poem contains my eyes, forcing them to whizz on down the lines. But the main reason that the impetus in Hawa’s poem works is that […] I am keen to find out what happens next, as if I were reading a thriller. ‘Learned Helplessness’ is genuinely exciting, even if – like any good poem – it doesn’t reveal all of its secrets, no matter how much I’ve forced myself to slow down to read it, and how many times. […] Yet for all of the form’s solidity, and the poem’s tremendous narrative arc, nothing feels real.”
‘In Front of the Poem’ is an occasional series of articles accompanying The Poetry Review in which poets are invited to analyse other poems that have appeared in the journal. Previous articles have included Kathryn Maris on Mary Ruefle’s ‘A Morning Person’ and Katharine Towers on ‘Another Agony in the Garden’ by Denise Riley.
22 January 2021