Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Stephen Vincent: Walking Theory

Feeling rather old these days, for various reasons. We had something of a going-away dinner for a dear colleague last night, a chap who's off to a rather fantastic job at a highly-ranked Texas university, & the course of conversation revealed that he's a solid four years younger than I am – I who seem mired in a kind of career & intellectual doldrums at the moment. The maddeningly finical business of pulling together paperwork for the promotion process doesn't help matters. Did I actually teach that course? What was I thinking? (No wonder the evaluations are so dreadful!) And looking back over things I wrote 6 or 7 years ago too often gives me the sense that hey, I used to write (& think) pretty well – what the hell happened?

Notables: Michael Heller has just published his collected writings on George Oppen (just in time for the Oppen Centenary) with the excellent Salt Publishing. Speaking the Estranged: Essays on the Work of George Oppen is going to be an indispensable collection on Oppen, John to Zukofsky's Paul (or Paul to Zukofsky's John, hell I don't know – tho I do know who's Ringo) of the Objectivists. Go thou & read.

Jerome Rothenberg, one of the central poets & anthologists of the last century, is still hard at it, now with a blog – Poems and Poetics – that republishes hard-to-find texts of his own, as well as – we're promised – various new works. Tasty stuff up there already.
Walking Theory, Stephen Vincent (Junction Press, 2007)


When I was in Ithaca, & later when I was in suburban Virginia, I used to take seemingly endless, aimless walks – a clearly or focusing of the mind, a leaving-behind of the problems on my desk to immerse myself in the atmosphere of outside, & in a steady physical rhythm. The South Florida heat, a full-time job, & 2 small children have largely put an end to that habit, but Stephen Vincent's Walking Theory makes me hanker to strap on the New Balances & head out in no direction in particular.

The "walk poem" is something of a subgenre all its own, as my old Cornell pal Roger Gilbert explored in his Walks in the World. For a lot of people, AR Ammons's "Corson's Inlet" is the epitome of the species, but I've always thought of Zukofsky's "A"-13, with its stroll along the Brooklyn Promenade, conversation between LZ 7 his son interspersed with all manner of current events, concrete observations, & the general kitchen-sink bolus of cultural materials that Zukofsky brings to bear on the quotidian. Stephen Vincent's walk-poems lean more towards the Zukofskyan than the Ammonsesque end of the spectrum, but they're more rooted in his surroundings, more alive to the immediate impressions around him than the myopic, astygmatic LZ ever was: "site/sight" is a repeated mantra here. Astonishingly how capacious the walk becomes in Vincent's poetics, capable of being the vehicle for celebration, for painful elegy, for painful rumination. Impressively human poetry. Somebody I'd enjoy taking a walk with.


Vance Maverick said...

Did you see Scott McLemee's post a couple of weeks ago? Complete with apt Baldwin quotation.

(I too am 42 and feeling it, so these things stick in the memory.)

Ed Baker said...

the risk taken

that you may become what you pretend to be

having been 42 25 years ago...

now as then I have nothing (much) to say
spend all of my time saying it..

and a few drawings,paintings, sculpts and several
1,000s of "poems"..

not great Literature or Art
but, what is?

(if you "get my dripht"

alex davis said...

Eheu fugaces, Postume, Postume,
labuntur anni nec pietas moram
rugis et instanti senectae
adferet indomitaeque morti

Mark Scroggins said...

Eheu, indeed!