Sunday, September 22, 2013

School Supplies

Happy sweater weather, oona-naut!  What are you reading as the colors turn?  We're leafing through the following:

•  Every aesthetic movement needs its bard, & life in the suburbs is no exception.  Check out our (r)'s interview with Stephen Burt about his new book, Belmont (Graywolf, 2013), over at Bookslut.

•  We're pretending David Shook's Our Obsidian Tongues (Eyewear Publishing, 2013) is a notebook Jerome Rothenberg lost on his way back from the field.  ("The sun rises each morning without human sacrifice./The misery of the city is enough" (13)).

•  We read Vijay Seshadri's 3 Sections (Graywolf, 2013) in the heat of summer, & we still can't shake this poem:

Family Happiness

On our first date, I told my wife
I was a lesbian trapped in the body of a man.
Everybody says that now, of course,
on TV and radio, alternative media outlets,
tattoos and bumper stickers, but this was long ago, when
none but the brave (who deserve the fair)
would come up with something like that.
She smiled the pleased and goofy smile that flowers in her big eyes,
and I thought I had her.
Looking back now, though,
I can see her appraisal of me rounding to completeness.
I can hear her cognition firing.
She knew it.  She knew even then
the truth it has cost me the aeons to acquire,
climbing and climbing the broken stairs:
I'm a man trapped in the body of a man.
I clutch the smooth walls and see through his eyes
the oil fires and containment units,
the huge clawed gantries strung out on the twilit polar horizon.
Through his alloyed ears, I hear
the objects of his scorn, his compassion, his hatred, his love
crying out and crying out.
Half my arms are his arms.
Half my face is welded to his face.
The other half mouths his clumsy ironies.
"Life is war," he says.
"Tragic," he says.  "Tragic."
The simulacra are marching everywhere,
and deep in the caves the chimeras are breathing.


Hey, Vijay.  (May we call you Vijay?)  Elizabeth Bishop & Philip Larkin called.  They want their collaborative poem back.

•  It's fitting that we came to Kristina Marie Darling's Melancholia (An Essay) (Ravenna Press, 2012) a little late, invested as it is in Romantic refractions, in ephemera, in the postscript and the footnote, in definitions & redefinitions.  ((("you were like bits of broken glass/when the jewelry box shattered//night & the ocean's coldest shore" (2).)))

•  Speaking of cross-genre experiment, we're fascinated by Martha Ronk's Transfer of Qualities (Omnidawn, 2013), a book of prose poems that crosses over into experimental criticism.  ("Hamlet refers to 'the book and volume of my brain,' and with the one word, 'volume,' points simultaneously to books as volumes of written words and to the volumes of space inside the globe of his skull.  The oscillation of the two meanings, between the 'book' as mentally conceived and the book as an object to be picked up and held, a thing to be read, the volume Ophelia, as directed by her father--'Read on this book, that show of such an exercise may colour your loneliness'--lures him with, makes a reader of the play helplessly intimate with this character who is as mere words as unreal as the clouds he sees as camels or at least says he sees, an insubstantial pageant" (35).  Exegesis as the only thing that's truly lyrical?  You're preaching to the choir.

•  & while we're heading back to school (see!  we told you, you can trust us), let's not forget Ciaran Carson's IN THE LIGHT OF (after illuminations by arthur rimbaud) (Wake Forest University Press, 2013), the kind of literary/critical homage we wish we could (let ourselves) write.  It's a translation of a translation in the tradition of Spicer's After Lorca--"I've brewed my blood.  Paid all my dues.  I really do come/from beyond the tomb.  Commissions?  That I've done" (34).

Our trend forecast?  Poetry is/as criticism, translation, & afterthought.  A new identity politics.  The best of the bad modernisms making a comeback.  Plaid & lace.  However you pull it all together, school's definitely in session.

Yours ever,
R & (r)