Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Susan Gevirtz: Linen minus

I don’t really know where to locate Susan Gevirtz on the map of contemporary poetry. I own only two of her books, Taken Place (Reality Street, 1993) and Linen minus (Avenue B, 1992). I don’t know whether she’s an East or West Coast poet, or even a midwesterner. I don’t know who she hangs out with, though Linen minus has blurbs from Norma Cole, Kevin Killian, and Kathleen Fraser, three very different poets whose work I respect greatly. But I know that I like Linen minus very much indeed. It’s a brief book, eleven poems that at times read like sketches for more fully fleshed-out works (think Hölderlin’s drafts, or Mallarmé’s notes towards the never-written poem for his son Anatole). There is a poem touching on the Romansh language of Switzerland (“Romansh: the stations of canonization”), another that plays upon the twenty-third Psalm (“(untitled)    ‘restoreth    leadeth’”), and another that seems to be set in a war-torn, Vietnam-like country (“Waterless Road”). In each of them, Gevirtz achieves remarkable intensity through the mosaic-like accreting of little lyrical fragments. “Sluice,” for instance, begins with this wake-up call:

coin of the game
eyes of gone
siphon weather
conduit not
or penny heads
my little precious
quake three palms up
you isolate your short order
ask late in early morning
rise mutter

–and ends with this beautiful passage:

at the wellhole one shoots fishes
the jug breaks and leaks
through your limbs

to break into pieces
water of the wellspring bubbles only
for fishes    shoot forth a ray
do not drink
dive down

leaven leave
coins of winter
palm-sized pine trees laden
our arms dispensable    boughs

Of course I can’t paraphrase what that “says,” but I know it gives me in a concentrated form some of the pleasures I look for most keenly in poetry: intense, isolated lyricism; a kind of indirection, not quite “suggestion rather than statement,” but rather statement unmoored from direct reference.


Steve said...

Susan Gevirtz is a west coaster. She taught in the Hutchins Department (with Elizabeth Herron) at Sonoma State University, alongside SSU's finest, David Bromige. All great friends, of course. Susan read at The Johnny Otis Club in Sebastopol, with I think Norma, when David and I were hosting Russian River Writers' Guild readings there, and then later at North Lights Books, with I think Cole Swenson. (Or maybe Susan Thackrey, another women from SF area and those days when I lived our there, myself.)

I think that Susan is at San Francisco State nowadays. Yes, her, Norma, Kathleen, all great friends.
Friend of mine, of course, too, and one I am VERY proud to have. She's about as neat and kind and bright and healthy-spirit, genuine person there is.

_Linen Minus_ and _Taken Place_ my own two books of hers, also -- so reminds me to see/find what she has written in more recent years (I moved to western New York in 1998, so I've been out of touch, but here's a picture of Susan for ya, Mark: http://theenk.blogspot.com/2009/01/david-bromiges-75th-birthday-on-youtube.html) and get those. I'll have to e-mail some time in the future when I get around to doing "a close/closet read" of these books or poming within them.


carlo said...

I know so well the career of this excellent woman called Susan Gevirtz actually I have all Susan's books and all of them have incredible content. Sildenafil Citrate