Tuesday, May 01, 2012

april's postmortem

Happy May Day, y'all.

April – sweet showers, the cruelest month, etc. National Poetry Month, whatever that means. For a bunch of people, it means NaPoWriMo, a chance to tackle different "prompt" (when did prompt become a noun?) every day, & produce 30 new poems. God bless 'em. It's not something I can do. I decided this year that I'd make my own little NaPoReMo & work thru some of the stacks of slim volumes of unread poetry on the shelves: a book a day.

Frankly, it was not as stupid an idea as I feared it was. I read an awful lot of poetry, some of it very good indeed, some of it very moving – some of it passing as rapidly thru my brain as one of my lectures passes thru the attention of my undergraduates. I got a new sense of the variety of what's out there, or at least the variety of what's on my shelves. I got a list of things I want to reread, perhaps even teach.

But at the same time I was reminded that "bulk" is not the mode in which to consume poetry. At any rate, here's the list of what I trundled thru, with maybe a couple of notes on the books along the way: 
•I Was There for Your Somniloquy, Kelli Anne Noftle (Omnidawn, 2011) [You gotta love a book that includes a sequence on sea slugs!]
Nomadic Foundations, Sandra Meek (Elixir, 2002)

Isles of the Signatories, Marjorie Welish (Coffee House, 2008)

Odi Barbare, Geoffrey Hill (Clutag, 2012) [I'm sure I'll put myself on the outs with the GH enthusiasts when I say that I find this latest run of "Daybooks" (this being the 3rd volume in as many years) rather disappointing...]

Muse & Drudge, Harryette Mullen (Singing Horse, 1995) [For the umpteenth time, as teaching text; but always pleasurable.]

The Area of Sound Called the Subtone, Noah Eli Gordon (Ahsahta, 2004)

Gallowglass, Susan Tichy (Ahsahta, 2010)

Saving the Appearances, Liz Waldner (Ahsahta, 2004)

Knot, Stacy Doris (U of Georgia P, 2006) [Dense, long lines; a "chewy" book, in the best sense.]

The Bone Folders, T. A. Noonan (Sundress, 2011) [Strong sophomore effort from someone who survived Our Fair University's MFA mill...]

The Presentable Art of Reading Absence, Jay Wright (Dalkey Archive, 2008) [Maybe one of the only things Harold Bloom & I agree on is that JW is about the best poet alive...]

Black Life, Dorothea Lasky (Wave, 2010)

The Method, Sasha Steensen (Fence, 2008)
Jammed Transmissions, Paul Naylor (Tinfish, 2009) [Like Wright's, this is a book of "spiritual practice," a business that deeply secular I have trouble wrapping my sensibility around; but like Wright's, its precision of language is exemplary.]

Windmills in Flames: Old and New Poems (Carcanet, 2010) [I'd read all these poems in various American venues, but rereading Raworth is always a pleasure.]

S*PeRM*RK*T, Harryette Mullen (Singing Horse, 1993) [Twice; I was disappointed when this came out on the heels of Trimmings; this time thru, I've decided it's actually a stronger collection.]

Gone, Fanny Howe (U of California P, 2003)
My Mohave, Donald Revell (Alice James, 2003) [Revell just keeps getting weirder and more touching as he progresses.]
She's My Best Friend, Jim Behrle (Pressed Wafer, 2006)

Response, Juliana Spahr (Sun & Moon, 1996) [Read this book. Period.]

Pleasure, Brian Teare (Ahsahta, 2010) [Perhaps the most astonishingly moving text of the lot. Heartrending, precise.]

Dance Dance Revolution, Cathy Park Hong (Norton, 2007) [Sigh. Norton's idea of the "adventurous"; not to be classed with Kamau Brathwaite or Jessica Hagedorn, the obvious models emulated.]
Gnostic Frequencies, Patrick Pritchett (Spuyten Duyvil, 2012) [A tasty gnostic stew simmered in the tradition of Duncan, Gershom Scholem, and high modernist parataxis.]
The Escape (Jo Ann Wasserman (Futurepoem, 2003)

Because It Is, Kenneth Patchen (New Directions, 1960) [Finally – a book I can give the girls with an good conscience! tho the drawings are better than the poems...]
Ceteris Paribus, Gale Nelson (Burning Deck, 2000)
This Is What Happens When Talk Ends, Gale Nelson (Burning Deck, 2011) [The Waldrops would be national treasures if they never did anything but publish GN, if you ask me... ]
Aerodrome Orion & Starry Messenger, Susan Gevirtz (Kelsey St., 2010) [Two lovely, sparse poems on – get this – air travel.]
Erat, Tom Mandel (Burning Deck, 1981) [And to bring it all back home, a splendid chapbook from one of the original Language folks.]

Phew! This might happen again next year, but I wouldn't put my money on it. One thing I can say for sure: the "lyric I" is back in fashion, & with a vengeance.

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