On Rick Barot’s Chord:
“. . . And the creeks curving
into sudden sight like a heartache. The mind going
over and over things, not knowing what to do
with the world, but to turn it into something else.”
[conclusion of “Coast Starlight”]
This is a gorgeous collection. I’ve been reading it slowly for the past two months, first straight through then revisiting randomly. Dwelling there. I so admire his eye and ear, the way he braids the personal, the natural, the political–his quiet but insistent gaze so tender yet unrelenting.
On Ruth Stone’s In the Dark:
I’ve been a fan of Ruth Stone’s poems since reading Second Hand Coat: her images, her direct yet often startling observations about sometimes the most commonplace settings. Though this collection feels more uneven than the stunning In the Next Galaxy, it’s still loaded with arresting lines, images, poems. Her poem “The Self and the Universe” starts out “This is not poetic language,/ but it is the language of poetry.” I’d say there is often poetic language but the real pleasure in reading her work is to appreciate her direct and multifaceted engagement with the world: sometimes sad but often witty with the kind of wit that arises from the long view of a lifetime of experience.
Some of my favorites in this book are “The Wailing Wall,” “Negative,” “Pulsing,” “Drought Again, “Interim,” “Inner Truth,” and “Leap from a Footnote.”
The rocks are secret as potatoes.
They squint in their gum-dirt sockets
The patient holds her pocketbook stuffed with toiletries
from the hospital bed stand. She stares
for a long hypnotic moment at the enamel nose of a male urinal.
It’s like I walk to the end of the world
and come to a wall. There is no top to the wall.
It goes up forever. My body adds itself to the bricks.
On Carl Phillips’ Reconnaissance:
I began to think of these poems as labyrinths as I spent time with–in–each one, recrossing my steps, rereading, pondering desire and memory and syntax. I’ve come late to Carl Phillips’ work; though I read and enjoyed _In the Blood_ when it was first published, I’ve not spent much time with his other books. But I will. I don’t know of anyone else who writes quite like this.
On Fred Moten’s The Service Porch:
I’ve tried picking this up a few times since I bought it last year, and I’m sorry to admit that I can’t connect to it since obviously many other readers do. Maybe I’ll try again in a few years and see if my ear is more developed for this sort of thing.
It’s intriguing to try to follow the poems’ structures on the page–at times I think they are representations of sound– like echoes in an empty room, the language scattered across a largely empty page–but it’s very hard for me to come away with anything more than curiosity about what’s going on here. (My loss.)
The poem I wrote yesterday–16 lines, four stanzas, where each stanza had four separate threads in succession (one per line) but then the poem can be read a second time to follow the four threads (1-1-1-1; 2-2-2-2; 3-3-3-3; 4-4-4-4): could this be a series? What other rules or restrictions to apply to the form? (i.e., thread 1 is a continuous statement about the present; thread 2 is a question about an emotion or human condition; thread 3 describes something in nature, a creature or plant or landscape; thread 4 is an argument or negation of 2?)
Last night, somewhere around 3 am, I started thinking they might be sonnets, especially if the 4th stanza were made up of dovetailed half lines
that might be read across as two whole lines (13 and 14). And I was playing with form titles, not exactly sonnets but something like song nets or just ***nets–which made sense in the middle of the night.