Monday, March 30, 2009

He loves me, he loves me not

I've just finished reading Postmodern American Poetry before it goes back to the library. I read it backwards, curiously, I can't remember why, but it think it might have something to do with me thinking contemporary = relevance and therefore I should read the newest first. The last poet I read and started out in the late fifties, was Jackson Mac Low, perhaps the most experimental of them all and before them all. His stuff reminds me of Christian Bok and reading about his algorithm driven production method, that is not entirely surprising. There is that lack of emotional resonance or any kind of loose structure for the reader to build their own around in some of his poems (like Bok too). The 'Dance' series poems on the other hand are astonishing, strange, lucid and captivating:
Later I quietly chalk a strange tall bottle.

Then, being a band or acting like a bee
& being a brother to someone,
I discuss something brown.
Without the title this poem would be flat too (6TH DANCE--DOING THINGS WITH PENCILS). But when the reader is imagining this as a list of metaphysical dance instructions they can't help be drawn into the dance of the language and the visual performance playing out in their own imgainations. Very satisfying.

Also took a bit of interest in the section on Robert Creeley because he more than anybody has influenced the contemporary short-lined poem that I am so fond of:
I think I grow tensions
like flowers
in a wood where
nobody goes.

Each wound is perfect,
encloses itself in a tiny
imperceptible bloom
making pain.

Pain is a flower like that one,
like this one,
like that one,
like this one.
I love how this poem is self-contained, and references pain/tension as being the flower, coming from the flower, returning to it. The line endings are so powerful, each one like a ripped petal. The only place where it doesn't seem to work so well for me is the line 'making pain.//Pain...'. Why have the word pain twice, so close and why the flat line at all after the beautiful power of the preceding lines? It doesn't seem to add anything for me and if it was me I'd be tempted to take out the 'making pain' line. But the star-struck goober in me is insisting he must have it there for a reason. A break in the power/music, some kind of witty intelligent reference I have missed? Can someone please tell me?

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