I enjoyed reading these poems by Jasmine Dreame Wagner.
There's a sort of ongoing, open-ended rhythmic quality to this writing which
echoes an echo of Whitman via a post-modern knowingness which still feels
genuine and real in its own terms.
Form becomes content and content form to the point where it's the writing
itself which is the subject, up there and projected in full
self-consciousness, yet the artfulness of this book is its strength, not a
weakness, where the limits of what can be said are written into the script in
a manner which feels laid-back and at ease with itself, as in 'Key of C' - 'and
the problem is, our language is a shell company/that needs rebranding.'
This isn't the sort of poetry that gives an immediate pleasure rush, neither
would I include it on my 'top ten of 2013' but it's consistently stimulating
and full of interest, you're never sure where you're going to end up and I
found it a pleasurable and easy-to-consume read:
Humidity holds its breath
the heatwave's continuity
a crack in the house of cards.
(from 'Favor is an arbitrary seed')
I like the way the language works, its mix of abstraction and listing, its
ease of continuity despite its unexpected twists and turns, yet there's
something comfortable and not remotely spiky about its language mix and its
querulous, restless quality which I just feel at ease with. Great stuff.
Much of Heidi Lynn Staples' work is developed through a
series of processes. The title gives a big clue in the sense that the musical
quality of her writing precedes its semantic element, which isn't, of course,
to say that this poetry is devoid of 'meaning'. Some of the work I most
enjoyed here was in the section 'Palm of Palms' where we get this:
Fish of my
flora, Bobolink of my Black Bear,
Lizard of all
Frigatebird, Owl of my Oak, Longleaf of all
Ants. Squirrel of my Scrub,
Isle of my
Anhinga, Alligator Flag of All Flowering
Common Sea Star of my
Redstart, Comet Darner of my River Cooter,
all Beard Lichen. ...
Apart from the listing device above, there's an almost abstract lyrical
quality to some of this writing which recalls Finnegan's Wake. In 'Barking at Blue Clouds' (title from Lyn
Hejinian) the procedures combine chance 'cut-ups' with collage and
homophones. This is a mixture which works well at times, especially as the
reader is introduced to the techniques in such a manner that makes the
process part of the reading strategy and enhances the enjoyment of the text.
This is poetry which is playful, as well as being purposeful and is pretty
much enjoyable to read and think about. I wasn't as taken with the long poem
'Florida Native' which started out well and was very funny in parts but
became a bit too repetitious (I know that was the point) and clotted after a
while. Overall though, a very interesting collection, from another new
writer, to me, which combines unusual word clustering with colloquial interjections
and the sort of wit and wordplay that I thoroughly enjoy.
I didn't really like the moralistic tone of much of the
poetry in Tod Boss's Pitch. This is
poetry which clearly has 'intentions' upon the reader, and while I quite
enjoyed some of the narratives and the evocation of a harsh environment I
wasn't really taken by the use of language or by its often mildly didactic
style. There's a musical quality to Boss's writing which I did find
attractive however, even when I'm not entirely sure about its 'message'.
Take, for example, this section from 'Don't be Flip':
when you drop
at school. Don't
be cool. Don't
be coy. Or if
you do, don't
okay to act
that way. For
be your last
joy before it
like a tin
toy in one
I guess there's a comforting aspect to this poetry - particularly evident in
pieces like 'The World is in Pencil' - where the aim is to pinpoint the
particular and the physical in a sort of homespun way which encourages effort
and suggests an aesthetic which praises the familiar and the worked-at, but
it all feels a bit too clichéd to me. I'm sure lots of people will love this
poetry but I think I'm becoming ever more cynical and to repeat another
cliché, I think I've been around the block once too often.
Steve Spence 2013