Thursday Poems: Immigrant Picnic by Gregory Djanikian

So, it’s Thursday once again, and I’m here to share my picks from last week. It’s rarely a case of just one poem being chosen, I should say, especially if it’s a short one, we often end up reading a few.

I’m going to cheat a little here, because while my official choice was Immigrant Picnic by Gregory Djanikian, I was too lazy to bring the laptop into my housemate’s room, and instead read from the book I had in my hand, Mark Haddon’s The Talking Horse, The Sad Girl, and the Village Under the Sea, which is an eclectic, odd, and often beautiful collection of poetry.

Since I can’t find those poems online, I’m sharing Djanikian’s poem instead. I love this poem, and the photo at the top, too. It evokes a sense of community and country so palpable you can almost taste it. As the son of migrants – one Turkish, one Lebanese – it really hit me hard. I might be a little biased then, being uniquely positioned to be affected by its message. I’ve lived this poem, after all.

Though immigration is a hugely complex, multifaceted issue affecting multiple generations, crossing thresholds of language and identity, Djanikian handles it with an assured, delicate touch. And a warmth that can only come from love, from deep familiarity, no matter the exasperation of the character in the poem. My favourite line sums up the confusion, the scrambled lines of communication perfectly:

The paper napkins
are fluttering away like lost messages.

And sets up the messy end perfectly, the lack of clarity.

It really is a lovely, affecting poem. If you get even a fraction of what I did from it, it will surely improve your day greatly. Go on, give it a read, and by all means, feel free to share the last excellent poem you came across. I’m always looking for more!

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