Wednesday, August 19, 2009

home; Maxwell: Realm Sixty-Four; Raworth: Ace

So we're back, as of Monday night. No, the suitcases aren't really unpacked yet, & we're bracing for the various cartons of books & papers with which the UPS folks are pursuing us (including some stuff I really wish I'm packed in the luggage – sigh). The entire house seems to be carpeted with tiny plastic beads from some bean-bag animal that Panda (the cat) has hunted down & dismembered; we have yet to find the actual carcass, which is no doubt stashed deep under some piece of furniture. Interesting science experiments in the refrigerator.

J. arrives from a flying trip this morning to the library at Our Fair University with the heartening news that what used to be the atrium in which banks of computers were arranged (so that students can look up books or – more often – update their Facebook pages) is being converted into a large lounge, & what used to be the interlibrary loan office (so that faculty could order books for research) is being converted into – you guessed it – a Dunkin' Donuts. A Dunkin' Donuts. In the library.
Realm Sixty-Four, Kristi Maxwell (Ahsahta, 2007)

The photograph on the cover of Maxwell’s Realm Sixty-Four shows a hand reaching out over a white background, as if to move a chess-piece. But it’s a plastic hand, the hand not of a woman or man but of an automaton, like the clockwork chess-playing Turk immortalized in Poe’s sketch, the “puppet and the dwarf” alluded to in Benjamin’s “Theses on the Philosophy of History.” Chess is the explicit subject of many of the poems of Realm Sixty-Four (the title refers of course to the squares of a chessboard), the thematic center of all of them.

Life is like chess (isn’t that banal?), one reflects, deep in a first reading of David Copperfield, with its repeated themes of unprepared infatuation, the “undisciplined heart.” The pieces’ moves, the basic rules – like the passional vocabulary of interpersonal relationships – are easy enough to learn, at least superficially. But the combinatory possibilities, as one grows older, plays the game more often, present themselves as increasingly rich, mysterious, complex. Maxwell’s Realm Sixty-Four is an arena in which love, sexuality, history & power are set out in the ever-shifting figures of the chessboard & its opposed, interlocked pieces. A rich & mysterious book.

Ace, Tom Raworth (Edge Books, 2001)

Vintage Raworth – circa 1973-4, that is – put back into print by the good offices of Rod Smith, whom I remember as the affable, enigmatic center of the DC poetry scene during my short time there in the early ‘90s. Where LZ’s one- or two-word lines slow the reader down, Raworth’s propel the reader forward, tripping from page to page, trying desperately to follow the quicksilver, evanescent shifts of voice & thought. Heady, fast.


1 comment:

Janet said...

They converted our periodicals section into a Starbucks two years ago. Really.

Thanks for the attention to Kristi's and David's books!