Nick Laird

Nick Laird was born the same year I was, and he’s had two novels and two collections of poetry published. In a move to vary my habit of adding books willy-nilly to my Amazon Wish List, I went ahead and ordered the newer collection.

He first caught my eye when I saw that one of his poems anthologized in The New North, an anthology of contemporary Northern Irish poetry edited by Chris Agee*, was entitled “The Use of Spies,” which interested me for several reasons:

  1. My mental Echelon sounds an alert whenever “spies” and other espionage-related words pop up in what I read, especially in poetry.
  2. I recognized the reference he was making with the title, mostly because of a childhood spent with this, rather than a deeper cultural connection with my roots.
  3. Laird apparently wrote a series of poems connected not only by titles taken from Sun Tzu but also being about married life. I want to write more love poetry, but one which dealt with marriage from rather odd perspectives (so far, I’ve written one that started with Anne Bradstreet and became an extended conceit on love as a giant robot of the mecha variety).

You can click here to listen to Laird read “The Use of Spies” and other poems, including “Wolves” and “Time for a Smoke” by Louis MacNeice (both of which I like a great deal). You may even “transcribe” his reading of that poem–which is beautiful–the way I did, because I can’t wait to get my copy of his book.

Two of Laird’s poems from the same book are also available here. Both “Holiday of a Lifetime” and “Estimates” are love poems, too, wonderful ones that capture an ache without coming across maudlin. Same with “Light Pollution.”

I’m also reading Laird’s columns for the Guardian. Even when he writes about a topic I don’t really think about, say, science and poetry, I’m tickled pink with his references to Robert Frost’s “Desert Places” and to “Hart Crane in ‘Voyages’ mode.” Three that I’d especially like to highlight are:

  1. “Like a prayer” (metaphor as agent of transformation)
  2. “Difficult ease” (which touches on my fixation with poetic difficulty)
  3. “The Slow Language Movement” (which touches on my admiration of John Olson’s “extreme reading” approach)

I love these moments of discovery.

* The death of Agee’s daughter led him to write a collection called Next to Nothing. Its  title poem references Heidegger, who I’ve been reading lately while I write a short story for the fiction workshop I don’t really talk about here: “…the human // Barnacled to the great right whale of Heidegger’s Being.”

Also of personal interest, the poem is followed by one called “Attic Grace,” which alludes to what got me interested in Ezra Pound in the first place, which brings me back to Salt Publishing, as I first came across their books when I wanted to know more about Tony Lopez‘s Covers, a collection of reworkings and “found poetry” that includes “Sequel Lines”:

We catch glimpses and echoes of Ezra Pound’s impossible fascist epic The Cantos (of which the author himself famously wrote ‘I cannot make it cohere’) in the Raworth-style self-replicating minimalist stanzas of ‘Sequel Lines’, an anti-epic freighted with unscalable detail of modernist catch-phrases, contemporary theory and non-sequiturs. ‘The unified subject / was out of a job’.

Good Gudding!

Last Tuesday, my teacher asked my classmates and I to bring a (short) poem we like to class next week. I have five so far, and I’m tempted to print all of them anyway.

Titles withheld for now. I’ll edit this next week with links and stuff.

Three of the poems are by Jack Spicer, the first person who came to mind when the announcement was announced. The ones I picked were his earlier lyrics, the ones he referred to as “one-night stands.”

One poem is by Ann Lauterbach, a piece that seems conventional in comparison with much of her (recent) work. It’s short, left-margin-justified, and even possesses a relatively coherent “narrative.” Yes, it really is by Lauterbach.

The final one is by Chad Davidson, though I’m going to talk about his essay “Got Punked: Religious Verse” here, which introduced me to Gabriel Gudding. Davidson mentioned “A Defense of Poetry,” I read it, and I haven’t stopped laughing since.

(I would have, in fact, chosen “A Defense…” for class, except that I wanted a lineated poem, for some reason.)

Not only have I not stopped laughing, but I’ve been trying to read more of Gudding as well. Since (constant refrain) I’ve yet to pick up either of his books, his usefully-prepared Wikipedia entry helps a great deal in gathering links to works available online, such as:

  1. “Praise to the Swiss Federation” and two other pieces: “Praise…” is a piece on time(pieces) that had me engaged from its opening portion, which may be a paragraph though I’ll “slash” it like a stanza, since it breaks in lines when I copy-and-paste it: Praise I guess to Theophilus Carter, furniture maker of Oxford, / that he constructed an alarm clock bed that wd throw its / occupant to the floor.”
  2. the Seven Corners feature about him with six pieces that show his range: “Minnesota” with the evocative nostalgia of many poems about remembering childhood mixed with the askew Gudding perspective, a tribute to a “popsickle” (his spelling), a lisping poem about having sex in a ditch (read aloud!), a hilarious Billy Collins parody and two others
  3. the Prologue and a sample from Rhode Island Notebooks: the Prologue interrogates, in beautifully run-on sentences, what is called a road, a car, a daughter, a long-distance relationship, and a notebook
  4. two more poems: Oddly, the poems are placed as comments to this blog entry. “The Atheist Gnat” starts out as one fart joke after another, but becomes surprisingly poignant at the end. “The Lyric” punctures, well, the lyric.

Quite a lot to read. I’m going to go check out the others now.

MAST

I was wrong, but Douglas Kearney’s “MAST” is great reading, continuing his aphorisms with much wit and insight:

52.
Here’s a writing exercise. It’s called “Titles for Poems I’ll Never Finish.”

Yowch!

Down The Line And What I Found There

I can no longer recall what I was searching for when I came across Dana Gioia’s “Thirteen Ways of Thinking About the Poetic Line,” but that somehow led me to…

…John Gallaher’s notes on the line, a blog entry occasioned by his having read an issue of Center that featured a “symposium on the line” (time to get a copy!). I’m not sure how I got here though, because oddly, Gallaher doesn’t mention Gioia at all. He does mention…

Annie Finch, whose “Grails and Legacies: Thoughts on the Line” I read. (She mentions Gioia, by the way, but only how he scans “Red Wheelbarrow” as two lines of iambic pentameter broken into lines.) Looking up Annie Finch made me fall in love with a book she co-edited. I hope to order An Exaltation of Forms soon.

Going back to Gallaher, he keeps referring to Michael Palmer’s “Notes for Echo Lake 4” as “the (emblematic) poem of our age.” I’m not sure I’d go as far as he does, but it’s certainly a fantastic poem.

I really like Michael Palmer a lot. I don’t claim to understand everything he does, but he’s brilliant as 123 in his poems, and even essays where he talks about, say, Robert Duncan (I’m trying to look for a way to bridge Language poetry and Robert Duncan, who was a harsh critic of it).

And Duncan has been very inspirational, especially when he talks about how

the artist of abundancies delites in puns, interlocking and separating figures, plays of things missing or things appearing “out of order” that remind us that all orders have their justification in an order of orders only our faith as we work addresses.

I loved reading all of these things, though truth be told, I’m not sure how they helped me complete my poem for tomorrow’s workshop. I feel absolutely certain they played some sort of part in the procedure though.

I feel good now, which I didn’t when I re-read “Subduing the reader” early this morning. I’m always disturbed by the warning it makes about “need[ing] always to be alert to writers who claim that good poetry must be difficult, accessible only to the educated few, and see this claim for what it is–fascist.”

I figure it’s the “must” that gets to Laurie Smith. I too have a problem with such unwavering imperatives, but unlike her, I want to assert that there is much room in poetry for difficulty.

Standing in the Shower…Thinking

Unlike the Jane’s Addiction song, I don’t shower with water that’s “so piping hot.” (I don’t piss on myself either.) Still, shower thinking time is something I look forward to every morning I wake up early to go to work. Fueled by that first cup of coffee, I have a blast with, well, that double blast of wetness and whatness.

Yesterday morning, perhaps triggered by my extreme reading of, among others, Listening to Reading by Stephen Ratcliffe and Eleana Kim’s essay “Language Poetry: Dissident Practices and the Makings of a Movement,” I found myself thinking once more about what might be called the page-versus-stage debate in poetry.

Less glibly, it’s what Ann Lauterbach calls, in the “Note to the Reader” in Or To Begin Again, “the differences between spoken utterance and written text.”

  1. Experiment: write as if every word is onomatopoeic, rendering the existence of onomatopoeia moot. Every word is its sound, sound is sense, what is sensible is material.
  2. Proposal: the poem as sensorium, appealing to both sight and sound, must be readable in both senses, be readable from the page to become a poem sounded and readable as a page to become a poem seen.

Giving credit to William R. Howe for the word “pagednesse,” I will use it from now on to mean the position of the page in poetry, as opposed to say, the position of the poetry on the page. The latter is the conventional view of the poem being the words on the page, while the former considers the poem to be the words and the page on which it is set (usually but not always, according to the left-margin linearity of conventional typography).

To be continued. This needs further development. Or a quick forgetting if it proves untenable claptrap that fails to result in some kind of making.

(Ron Slate on) William Matthews on Narrative and Time

Emphasis mine:

Matthews knew the dangers inherent in narrative, as spelled out in another Curiosities essay, “Dishonesty and Bad Manners”: “Things happen consecutively in narrative that happen simultaneously in psychic life, and there are many critics and poets who prefer the experience of consecutive time to simultaneous time because it makes moral discourse easier, and because causality and guilt are easier to assert as religious or quasi-religious principles in narrative than in any of the many other experiences of time.” His dream was for an upshot of psychic immediacy in the course of a riff, a disruption of the poem’s official time zone.

via on New Hope for the Dead: Uncollected William Matthews, ed. by Sebastian Matthews and Stanley Plumly (Red Hen Press) | On the Seawall: A Literary Website by Ron Slate (GD).

More Berryman

John Berryman envisioned his Dream Songs poems to wed “gravity of matter” and “gaiety of manner.” It’s apparently in his notebooks, but I only came across it when I read David Wojahn’s essay on Berryman. I originally just wanted to quote the passage, but this has become a surprising bit of self-examination of my own poetic project at this point in time.

Anyway, Wojahn didn’t write it though, as he quotes from Paul Mariani’s Dream Song: The Life of John Berryman. Mariani, of course, quotes from Berryman himself, and to further the cycle here I am quoting the entire passage Wojahn quoted from Mariani who quoted Berryman himself:

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