Monday, August 17, 2009

Mutschlecner: Sign; Bergvall: Goan Atom

Sign, David Mutschlecner (Ahsahta, 2007)

I’ve never been inclined one way or another in regards to “religious” or spiritual poetry, tho I’ve read my share of Herbert, Donne, & Milton, grappled with Hopkins & David Jones, & more recently enjoyed the work of Donald Revell & Peter O’Leary. It seems somehow appropriate that I paused at the midpoint of Dante’s Paradiso to read David Mutchlecner’s Sign. I must confess – the ceremonies & theology of Roman Catholicism are an alien country to me, brought up as I was in an icon-smashing, bare-pewed Protestantism. But I’m much moved by Sign, by Mutschlecner’s quiet, spare, syntactically straightforward poems of spiritual experience. These are the poems that an ascetic desert Father might write, if he came in the aesthetic mode of Robert Creeley, Theodore Enslin, & Ronald Johnson. The final long sequence, “Poems for the Feast of Corpus Christi,” makes the mass come alive for me more vividly than anyone except Jones himself.

Goan Atom, Caroline Bergvall (Krupskaya, 2001)

Zowie! A more rambunctious, high-spirited, madly inventive book hasn’t come my way in ages. The Brits, I’ve gathered, are rightly suspicious of that squishy term the “postmodern,” & those among their interesting writers who take the trouble to label what they’re up to tend rather towards the label “late modernist.” If Bergvall – a British/Norwegian/French poet based in the UK – ’s treading a modernist path, late or otherwise, however, it’s by no means the familiar Pound-Williams-Olson idiom of much of the New American Poetry, but rather some unholy, crystal meth-fueled mixture of Stein, Jarry, Duchamp, Dada, & Russian Futurist Zaum. Voices drop in & out of dialect, letters spill over the page, words break up & reform before one’s eyes. It’s all about sex & puppets, I think, but I’m far from sure, & don’t really care: it makes a lovely, exhilarating noise. Is Bergvall the Derek Bailey of poetry?



Ed Baker said...

you mention Ted:

Ted Enslin is under-read

in fact


Steven Fama said...

I bought the Bergvall the other day; your comment convinced me to do so.

Actually, I didn't need much more than your "Zowie!"