Friday, November 14, 2008

Lisa Jarnot: Black Dog Songs

Black Dog Songs, Lisa Jarnot (Flood Editions, 2003)

Given the Steinian provenance of much of her language, & her penchant for rollicking dactylic meters, it's no surprise that the tone of much of Jarnot's Black Dog Songs is very precisely whimsy. But she wears her whimsy with a difference – it's underlaid with melancholy, with constant reminders of the carnivorous nature of the doggies she so dotes upon, of the dark depression or even madness that can manifest itself in sing-song melodies. The sequence "My Terrorist Notebook" makes a wonderful, light-touched attack on post-9/11 American policy, while the prose poems (& one sestina) of "They" proffer an anthropology of the loves & likings of some unspecified race – "they" – which turns out to look very much like us. I still cherish a great attraction to the overwritten opacities of Jarnot's first volume, Some Other Kind of Mission, but I like Jarnot's whimsy more than anything this side of Stein herself, or Edward Lear.

Well, the battery-recharging aspects of last week's vacation wore off pretty damned quickly, I must say, & I'm back in my habitual glums: not merely is there the final gruelling weeks of the teaching semester, along with the various wee writing assignments I've been postponing, but the faculty recruitment committee I'm chairing – an always onerous job, but one with its advantages: finding out what's going on in the discipline, what the bright young things are writing about, what kind of letters of recommendation my friends tend to write, etc. – has been swamped – nay, tsunami'd – with applications for our modest position. Oh my!, as Archie Ammons used to say. I estimate that it will take at least twelve to fourteen hours of steady reading just to do a preliminary triage of the vast sea of letters & dossiers. Keep me in your prayers or meditations, so I don't entirely crack up between now & the MLA.

1 comment:

Jacob said...

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