Sunday, May 19, 2013

benjamin friedlander: one hundred etudes

One Hundred Etudes, Benjamin Friedlander (Edge Books, 2012)

The overall form is simple. As the book's opening page notes, the etudes pay homage to LZ's word-count prosody. Each page has three 3-lined stanzas, each line of 3 words. The etudes' numbers (eg "Thirty-seven") and titles (eg "DICTATION") count as well, tho an etude may begin or end anywhere with a three-word line. The poems are of variable length, but the book is exactly 300 pages long – so an average of 3 pages to an etude. (All those threes – I can't help thinking of course of Dante, and beyond him of Ron Johnson...)

The form enforces constant enjambment, & Friedlander is one of the most canny players of the line-break around. The etudes themselves are by turns hilarious, slyly witty, guilelessly frank, and transparently beautiful. The form tends, it's true, towards the epigrammatic, the gnomic – and that's fine, because I'd as lief have Friedlander's epigrams as anyone's since Martial – but they also open up into longer, more expansive structures. An amusing, moving, really splendid book, whose depths belie its unassuming title.


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