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.”
- 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.
- 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.
I didn’t hit the Manila International Book Fair this year, after nearly two decades of perfect attendance and profligate spending. I did feel a little bad, but only a little, because I did manage to amass several titles recently, including a hugely discounted online order that arrived over the weekend.
Two of those were “free”:
Ann Lauterbach’s Hum was a title my wife bought me, which joins my copies of works like On a Stair (another review), Or To Begin Again, and the essay collection The Night Sky: Notes on the Poetics of Experience. Lauterbach not only impresses me but has impressed on me, and if I had to name the poets most important to me, she would be one of those I would immediately cite (along with Jack Spicer).
The other “free” title was from my Dad. He doesn’t really get poetry, but he’s been on an online ordering binge for some time now, not just for himself but for his circle of friends (and their children). So when an extra copy of Poems for the Millennium III: The University of California Book of Romantic and Postromantic Poetry turned up, that went to me. I’m very pleased with it, because I do want to “reconfigure Romanticism” in the same way co-editor Jerome Rothenberg intended this anthology to do.
The rest of the titles–all seven of them–were part of an online order that only cost me US$ 37.38, an online order consisting of:
- The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction by Dean Young is a new title in Gray Wolf’s “The Art of…” series of books. I’m pretty sure this will inspire and/or reinforce my own poetic beliefs and convictions.
- After a Lost Original by David Shapiro is one of two hardcovers, and it’s hard not to get excited over blurbs calling Shapiro’s 1994 collection “a dark divertimento of his underlying themes of multiplicity and doubt.”
- Boss Cupid by Thom Gunn is the other hardcover, eventually the final collection of someone described in the blurb as “the quintessential San Francisco poet, who is also the quintessential craftsman and quintessentially a love poet, though not of quintessential love.”
- You are the Business by Caroline Dubois is a title I only encountered after I searched for the books of Cole Swensen who translated this collection of prose poems. It’s earning good reviews online (one and another), and I’m attracted for its use of movies in general and Blade Runner and Cat People, in particular.
- The Face: A Novella in Verse by David St. John is also about movies, though not always reviewed favorably (this one is somewhat mixed, though ultimately positive). Still, as a book-length narrative work of poetry, it’s a form I’ve wanted to explore in my own work. Samples are available here.
- Hard Evidence by Timothy Liu is again a collection thematically centered on desire, with an additional point of interest being his being of Chinese descent. Surprisingly, until I started reading Singaporean poetry, I was never really interested in seeking out work written by Chinese people like myself.
- Listening to Reading by Stephen Ratcliffe is a collection of essays (many of them available here) on contemporary experimental poetry, but its presentation of “two different kinds of writing about poetry–‘critical analysis’ and ‘performance'” certainly push the envelope of traditional criticism. Since the book “pay[s] particular attention to sound, shape, and the relation of sound/shape to meaning,” this will certainly be essential reading.
With this much to preoccupy me for the moment, I’m almost (but not quite) ashamed to say there are still (at least!) a couple of titles out there calling to me. There always are.