Sunday, June 15, 2008

Anthony Barnett: Poem About Music

A couple of things well worth reading: Peter O'Leary's beautifully researched & balanced essay on the making of the "'Objectivists' 1931" issue of Poetry magazine, on the Poetry Foundation's website: this will be the definitive account for some time to come. And for the strangely melancholy occasion that is Father's Day, an essay in The American Scholar by Jim McConkey – an old Cornell acquaintance of mine who carries on the EB White tradition of graceful essayism – on the uncertainties of fatherhood.
Poem About Music, Anthony Barnett (Burning Deck, 1974)


Altho I have a handful of his books, I know little about Anthony Barnett. He seems to have been instrumental in promoting – or introducing – Zukofsky's work to the French poets back in the day (the first page of Poem About Music, I'm convinced, is a nod to LZ); he published Prynne, & the collected poems of Veronica Forrest-Thomson; he's a jazz violin aficionado, & runs a jazz fiddle (& poetry) website which is one of the very few sites that Paul Zukofsky's record label site links to. Poem About Music is a long poem with very few words, sometimes only one word to a page; & many of those words aren't Barnett's but Charles Olson or Charles Montagu Doughty's. The Doughty, at least, gives long stretches of the poem – if one can speak of "long stretches" in a work this delicate & evanescent – a somewhat archaic, "literary" flavor. The whole thing reminds me strongly of early John Taggart or mid-period Theodore Enslin: the pursuit, at all cost, of the poem as literal music.

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