Five from iO Poetry

From the latest issue:

  1. Nate Pritts (“Today’s sunlight is entitled ‘Crisis.’ // It plays gentle havoc with the soft parts / of me…”)
  2. Natasha Kessler (“You are an outline, a strand of light draped across a new bone.”)
  3. Matthew Guenette (“You Hank like Williams. / Johnny like Cash. / Kiss like kissing.”)
(More Guenette. More Kessler. More Pritts.)

From an older issue:

  1. Anthony Madrid (“If I play favorites with my holy books, I hope I may be forgiven. I’m /Lately immersed in the Sex Code of the New Hammurabi.”)
  2. Franz Wright (“Massive languor, languor hammered; / Sentient languor, languor dissected;”)

Boast, Freud, Bozicevic

I met up with my thesis adviser yesterday (hello, sir!), and he told me about how his fellow postgrad at the University of St. Andrews won the Forward Prize. I looked up Rachael Boast and found these three poems rather engaging.

I glanced at my adviser’s bookshelf and found an Annie Freud collection, and because that surname always get me to perk up, I looked her up online and found four poems I enjoyed even more.

And finally, because I follow Ana Bozicevic on Twitter and really like her poems even if I always have to look up her surname, I’m linking to these three poems, the first two of which are especially resonant to where my mind is these days.

 

UPDATE: Another two poems by Bozicevic. Great stuff, though I once again had to look up her name as I typed it. *shakes head*

Two Roberts, Gentlemen And Refinement

Robert Archambeau’s “Why You Are Not A Gentleman” is already in itself an erudite and highly engaging piece, but its impact was further reinforced by my having just started reading The Triumph Of Vulgarity: Rock Music In The Mirror Of Romanticism by Robert Pattison (no, not who you’re thinking of).

I’ve just started reading the latter but have already had several exciting encounters with the insight with which Pattison talks about, for instance, the vulgar or pantheism. Here’s one of my favorite passages, so far:

Refinement, the mode in which favor and grace have apprehended the world, has always made a point of filling the imagined vacuum of vulgarity with reasoned civilization. The Romantic revolution proclaims that the apparent emptiness is in fact infinite energy that needs no refined tinkering. 

It’s a simple thought, but whatever the logical validity of this argument, it certainly feels right to me, as I think about my thesis.

(And if we’re talking about gentlemen and vulgarity, I just can’t resist embedding the video to a song released the year I graduated from high school, a song I loved then and still love now, though it’s been years since I listened to the band:

Lethem Eat Cake

I love the idea of Jonathan Lethem. Reading about him and looking through his list of writings is something I find downright thrilling (“What imagination! What lunacy!”). Shamefully, however, out of all the fiction he’s published, the only one I’ve actually read is “The Elvis National Theater Of Okinawa.” It’s a wild story I really enjoyed, but it’s really short and co-authored, so I can’t really say how representative it is of Lethem, especially since his work just seems so wide-ranging.

“Dismantling Rushmores: Field Notes From The Life Of A 21st Century Novelist” isn’t fiction, but when a link to this appeared on my Twitter feed, I couldn’t resist clicking on it and feeling, well, thrilled to see him open with a discussion of Manny Farber’s “White Elephant Art vs. Termite Art,” because hey, what’s this, and also because Lethem’s first sentence is something I agree with 100%. Now that I think about it, it’s thrilling because it’s a little scary.

The rest of the essay is just as engaging, to me especially. Lethem troubles what we mean when we say “pop culture” and ends with what would be called, if it were badly written, a rant against “the crime of Literary Rushmore.” Never mind the tiny regret I felt when I realized he was referring to Rushmore as in Mount rather than the film I’ve been itching to re-watch; Lethem’s essay was a fun read, for me anyway.

(And just as I finished reading this, my Twitter feed throws me an interview. This I haven’t read yet, though I’m about to.)

Three Recent Reviews From Jacket2

  1. “Morse Code” (Bruce Whiteman on After Jack by Gary Thomas Morse): Jack as in Spicer. Need I say more?
  2. “Getting to know each other better” (Erika Jo Brown on Lovely, Raspberry by Aaron Belz): “Belz is refreshingly unpretentious, just a nerd who loves words and is, at turns, confounded and delighted by the nature of utterance.”
  3. “Cookies and vortices” (Ben Mirov on The Madeleine Poems by Paul Legault): What I would have done to attend this reading by Legault and Ann Lauterbach (next best thing!). And as for Mirov, I can only say: “I f**kin’ love his work!”

From Spectres Of Marx

was my reply to

Masha tweeted that right after she multi-tweeted the following bit from Spectres Of Marx:

In The Beginning: Questions

Two years ago, on the first day of the first graduate-level poetry workshop I ever attended, my teacher asked us to bring copies of a poem we liked. This was, I imagine, designed to be both an assignment and an icebreaker, perhaps even an introduction. For the next few days, I kept several poems in mind and tried to decide between them. At that time, this included the following:

In the end, I copped out and chose not one, but two: the Stevens and the title poem from Harvey’s collection. My teacher didn’t care much for the latter but vigorously discussed many of the formal devices Stevens employs in “High-Toned.” Afterwards, however, he warned me of the tendency in Stevens’s poetry to exclude the reader, which became one of the many ideas I wrestled with that semester as I wrote my poems and submitted them for critique during the workshops.

(To be honest, I can’t remember the word my teacher actually used to describe Stevens’s writing; I often think it was “arrogant” or “aloof,” but there are times when I feel it could be something else like “snobbish.” A year later, I would remember his point but not the word he used, when I read Louise Gluck’s “Invitation And Exclusion,” the essay in Proofs And Theories where she describes how her early “encounter with Stevens was shattering (114),” because reading his work made her feel “superfluous, part of some marginal throng (115).” By that time, I had learned to simultaneously heed and ignore the warning; though I somewhat understand where Gluck is coming from when she characterizes Stevens’s work as such, I admit to loving his poetry precisely for that very quality.)


The other question my teacher asked that first day was just as confusing: “How do you reconcile choosing Stevens and Harvey?” I was puzzled for several reasons. After all, as someone who loves listening to both “So What” by Miles Davis and, er, “So What” by Anti-Nowhere League, I considered the differences between Stevens and Harvey to be much less irreconcilable than that.

More to the point, while Stevens’s lyricism and Romanticism, not to mention his frequent use of blank verse, can make him seem arguably more conventional than, say, Pound (“break[ing] the pentameter” was Pound’s “first heave” but Stevens doesn’t seem so interested in that project) or Eliot, the indulgence in wordplay and musicality makes many of Stevens’s poems approach, limit-like, the point of nonsense.

In “A High-Toned Old Christian Woman,” it’s obvious in bits like “tink and tank and tunk-a-tunk-tunk,” but many of the other lines make their sense through sound: “like windy citherns hankering for hymns,” the last two lines of the poem, and many others seem to me to form the “jovial hullabaloo among the spheres” which is the poem itself. It’s a play of sound without being nonsense, and neither is Harvey, despite how skittery the latter (and even the former) seems to, say, Tony Hoagland.

I still like those two poems I’ve chosen, although, when another teacher in another poetry workshop I took one year later gave the same assignment, I chose a different one: Ann Lauterbach’s “Rancor Of The Empirical,” which I consider a little Stevensian in theme and language. It has since become my “totem poem,” although I did have a runner-up: Chad Davidson’s “Cockroaches: Ars Poetica.”

Desperately Seeking Sources

Based on the critical project I’m currently exploring, having to do with my own personal poetic participation in the dismantling of the opposition between Romanticism and Modernism in order to embrace them both (call it postmodernism, or maybe not), I wish I could find the full texts of:

For that matter, I also want Howard Nemerov’s “The Difficulty Of Difficult Poetry” in full. The libraries I have access to over here? Not so helpful, unfortunately.

Jorie Graham On The Region Of Unlikeliness

In this excerpt from a 2003 interview with Jorie Graham that appeared in The Paris Review, she talks about several of my preoccupations–autobiography, parenthood, lineation, philosophy in poetry, addressing the reader, confession, etc–and how they played out in her collection Region Of Unlikeliness:

INTERVIEWER

In Region—after using works of art, then myth, in the previous books—you turn to autobiography. The poems were all your own stories, at that point. Why was that?

GRAHAM

Perhaps because once you’re a parent, you enter into a completely different relationship to time. History becomes dominant, and then, perhaps, personal history becomes dominant. You are suddenly at that point where facts—both the facts that your child is learning, and the facts of your life your child wants to know, needs to know—become important. You become a bit of story that needs to be told.

INTERVIEWER

The lines in these poems are shorter. Why?

GRAHAM

Many things made the line shorter. Once you begin talking from the position of being a social creature, you go back to the line in which social discourse takes place, the pentameter. It’s a more exterior line, which, since Shakespeare, we associate with people speaking to one another. On either side of it stand more unspeakable lines—longer lines for the visionary; shorter and more symmetrical ones for song, spell, hymn; and shorter yet for the barely utterable, the shriek, the epitaph.

INTERVIEWER

And the second line?

GRAHAM

The indented line became a very useful place to negotiate and control the music of the poem. I was still very interested in the sentence, in the kinds of energies the sentence awakens—desire for closure, desire for suspension of closure, desire for simultaneity in a stream of temporal action that defies simultaneity. I guess I still am. For example, what happens along the way of the sentence that you’re in the process of undertaking, the thing you can’t put alongside but that has to actually happen in the sentence as a “dependent” phrase? If you’re telling the story of your life, in a way, or if you’ve gone back to autobiography or history, you’re in a place where sentence-making is connected to time, as opposed to those epiphanic escapes from time which would employ a different kind of syntax—in Erosion for example.

INTERVIEWER

So, the indented line . . .?

GRAHAM

The indented line allows you to modulate the sentence and keep it capable of carrying so much without collapsing. It’s all a matter of freight carried to speed of carriage, to mangle Frost’s quote. It gave me a kind of lift—and three musical units: the full line; a shorter fragmentary line that condenses stresses on very few words (often words that would never carry a stress—prepositions, articles, conjunctions) words that if stressed truly alter the nature of what the actual inquiry of the poem is; and the “landing,” the oftentimes single word on the left margin, which takes the strongest stress of all. Those “landing words” gave me a kind of propulsion that made a rather long poem continue to feel like a containable lyric utterance. I wanted to pack a lot into the lyric, but not go beyond its bounds. Some have written that I wanted to expand what the lyric could do. I just want the hugeness of experience—which includes philosophical discursiveness—to move at a rate of speed that kept it (because all within one unity of experience) emotional. Also, often, questions became the way the poems propelled themselves forward.

INTERVIEWER

And that does what to the reader?

GRAHAM

It brings the reader in as a listener to a confession? A poem is a private story, after all, no matter how apparently public. The reader is always overhearing a confession.

Tweet Lookup

When I hit Google with a search string from the tweets that appear on my timeline, it leads me to wonderful wonderful things. To wit:

Read Paul Celan’s entire poem here.

http://twitter.com/#!/MichelleMcGrane/status/111131540926365696

From the W.S. Merwin interview conducted here.

Palmer’s poem is at the bottom of this blog entry and Jorie Graham talks about Palmer and poetry in general here.