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:
- “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.”
- 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
- 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
- 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.
(This has happened before, here and elsewhere.)
- A few weeks ago, I bought a copy of the 2007 Best American Poetry edited by Heather McHugh (TOC). Recognizing the reference to Kant, I read my first Jane Hirshfield poem: “Critique of Pure Reason.” (Scroll down to read it here.) I remember being especially taken with the following: “Perimeter is not meaning, but it changes meaning, / as wit increases distance and compassion erodes it.“
- A few days ago, a friend of mine updated his Facebook status with the final five lines from “A Blessing for Wedding”: “Let the vow of this day keep itself wildly and wholly / Spoken and silent, surprise you inside your ears / Sleeping and waking, unfold itself inside your eyes / Let its fierceness and tenderness hold you / Let its vastness be undisguised in all your days“
- Last Tuesday, my teacher mentioned, in passing, Hirshfield’s book of poetics essays as being very good. It was my first time to know that Hirshfield employs a Zen Buddhist approach to much of her work, although “nine gates” brought to MY mind something more, well, diabolical. I’m really not very Zen.
- The same Hirshfield book, by the way, also appears on the syllabus of a former teacher of mine, who is currently teaching a course on “Myth and Literature.” I initially considered signing up for that course this semester, but ultimately chose a Fiction Workshop instead.
- Also on Tuesday, Poetry Daily chose Hirshfield’s “The Egg Had Frozen, An Accident. I Thought Of My Life.” It didn’t impress me as much as the previously-mentioned poems I read, but it was interesting given how the teacher I mentioned in number 3 is a poet who privileges image as a key poetic device. This poem by Hirshfield is certainly a textbook example of imagery and metaphor. (That textbook quality may be what leaves me cold though.)
- Although I found a copy of “A Blessing for Wedding” at the Poetry Foundation’s site, I only realized yesterday that the December 2010 issue of Poetry contains two new poems by her, both very good: “Sonoma Fire” and “Sentencings”
Like I said, I’m not very Zen in my poetry, or any other aspect of my life, but I’m now fascinated. Drawn towards Hirshfield by synchronicity and/or serendipity–I’m not sure which.
Some of the required texts for a poetry workshop I'm currently taking.
One of the reasons I love grad school so much is the chance to not only read books but to discuss them with other students. While my inclinations and interests lead me more to poetics that are closer to this, I have been interested in one reason or another, I’ve been interested in those three titles above:
- Dobyns has a long essay in that book entitled “Notes on Free Verse” that I’ve long wanted to read.
- Gluck tickles my fancy with essays entitled “Against Sincerity” and “Disruption, Hesitation, Silence.”
- Levertov’s “On the Function of the Line” seems to me deservedly pivotal in discussions of lineation.
That said, these authors aren’t really poets who inspire me to the point of worship. This makes for good discussion, even without classmates: it almost seems as if I have to constantly debate in my head about some of their ideas. To whit:
- Dobyns strikes me as definitely humanist, possibly Romantic, in his poetic. While I haven’t completely rejected these paradigms, I am certainly inclined towards the kind of poetry that appeals to someone like, say, Marjorie Perloff. (I mention Perloff, because Dobyns’s comments on her here struck me as odd, especially because I never realized someone like Donald Revell would “take their ideas from” her.)
- Gluck is a wonderful poet, one I can admit to highly admiring. Still, I can’t seem to love her the way many people I know do. In addition, she champions the understated, and while I love, say, the Imagist Pound, George Oppen, and Robert Creeley, my own writing tends to the verbose. Gluck would hate my work .
- Levertov also bumps into my inclinations; her essay on the line comes down very strongly against practices like enjambment, which is something I tend to do in much of my work. Also, her view on the barely-audible (but certainly present) pause between lines is something I’m not sure I agree with. I think I do, but I can’t be as sure as she is.
It could be that I simply lack the conviction of these poets, though I suspect it may be a matter of temperament, if I dare say so myself.
I’d like to meet James Longenbach someday to thank him for writing The Resistance to Poetry. I’ve just finished reading the book, but each of its nine essays bursts with so much insight that I don’t think I’ll ever really finish “reading” it.
As a sample: the opening salvo that gives the book its title and general thrust.
And to think I was already so impressed with his The Art of the Poetic Line, which I read before The Resistance to Poetry. (Saying that reading the former led me to the latter is only half-true: Chad Davidson mentions Resistance… in “Got Punked: Rebellious Verse.”)
I struggle with the line, so reading The Art… was quite mind-expanding, too. Anyway, more about Longenbach in this interview, showcasing his sensitivity to the materiality of language and, by consequence, poetry.
The question of our respective and prospective thesis topics in my Poetics course was suddenly raised, pop-quiz style, last Wednesday. I babbled a bit about fragmentation and Chad Davidson calling poetry “the rebellion of language against the tyranny of meaning,” but all it did was remind me about how far I needed to go to think this through.
(I also thought about–but decided not to mention–Theodor Adorno, his suspicion of “identity thinking and instrumental reason,” his championing of art as “non-identity,” his decision to go aphoristic in Minima Moralia, his views on punctuation, etc.)