Damon Krukowski, 5000 Musical Terms (chapbook, Burning Deck, 1995). Damon Krukowski’s a cult-level rock star (drummer for Galaxie 500 and half of Damon and Naomi, with Naomi Yang). He’s also a pretty darned good poet. (Entirely irrelevantly, I gather he was as well a high school classmate of my wife’s.) 5000 Music Terms gathers 17 mostly long-lined, low-keyed poems that make wonderful use of found language and previous texts, and that maintain a scrupulous impersonality. An impersonal late Ashbery, perhaps. Or the poems remind me – this might be far-fetched – of Ronald Johnson’s prose pieces (why doesn’t someone collect them?), minus the endearing flights.
John Latta, Breeze (U of Notre Dame P, 2003). Those who follow John Latta’s Rue Hazard (and followed his Hotel Point) will not be surprised by the voice of the poems in Breeze: intelligent; whimsical; intoxicated with the sounds and shapes of words (one of the most fascinating formal devices here is sheer lexical repetition, the same word or phrase reappearing from two, three, or twenty lines before); given to rumination in the best sense, where the cud brought up from the second or fifteenth stomach has become something shiningly different from the window-scene ingested at the poem’s head. Like Krukowski, Latta refuses to abandon or undermine syntax. At all times, these poems’ sentences have the stately pseudo-logic of Stevens’s great mediations; at their best, they weave laceworks like Mallarmé sonnets.
“Heaven have mercy on us all – Presbyterians and Pagans alike – for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.”
–Moby-Dick, Chapter 17: The Ramadan
“He was but shabbily apparelled in faded jacket and patched trowsers; a rag of a black handkerchief investing his neck. A confluent small-pox had in all directions flowed over his face, and left it like the complicated ribbed bed of a torrent, when the rushing waters have been dried up.”
–Chapter 19: The Prophet
Spending inordinate amounts of time with the National Hurricane Center’s and the Weather Channel’s websites, though I find it hard to take a storm named “Wilma” seriously enough. (Seen on the web, a signboard: “Go Back to Bedrock!”) The shutters, a half-ton of corrugated aluminum, go up tomorrow afternoon. I have fantasies of being the sole Palm Beach County casualty of the storm, the fellow who clipped off a brace of toes installing his storm shutters…