Thursday, March 05, 2009

C. S. Giscombe: Prairie Style

I've just gotten back from a quick "spring break" week in New York, where the girls spent scads of time dabbling in the snow & I spent lots of time shivering. Not a busy week, in literary terms. Ran into Bruce Andrews on the subway for a quick moment; had dinner – a busy, chattering, family-style affair – with Mike Heller & Jane Augustine. But I did make it down to the Strand one late evening, & a large carton of slim volumes of contemporary verse should be UPS-ing its way towards Florida right now. For the nonce, I'll content myself with blogging some of the books I've read over the past couple of months but haven't gotten around to inserting:
Prairie Style, C. S. Giscombe (Flood Editions, 2008)

Cecil Giscombe & I go way, way back – too far back, it seems these days – to when he was a whole lot younger than I am now. I knew his daughter when she was a prelingual toddler (there's a poem dedicated to her in Anarchy); now she's graduated from college. His poetry just gets better and better, as he works steadily & slowly (Prairie Style is only his 4th collection), but more & more perfectly. The African diaspora across the Great Plains, with conceptual side trips to Canada & Jamaica. Foxes & trains, both of them quick, intelligent, & indigenous. A soft, persistent, imperative, ironical voice, telling a tale of the tribe; but more specifically telling – as has always been Giscombe's obsession – telling the phenomenology of particular places. CSG is to the midwest what Stevens was to Key West, Bishop to an American's Brazil, Olson to Goucester. (Olson, frankly, is the only direct influence on Giscombe of those three hat-plucked names.) The only thing I miss here, in these beautifully sculpted, eye-brow raised prose poems, is CSG's peerless sense of the line.


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