Monday, April 12, 2010

Julie Carr: 100 Notes on Violence

This winds up the "100 poem-books" project that I so sanguinely began a bit over (gulp) 2 years ago, expecting to dash thru it in maybe 14 months. It's not that I didn't read that many slim (& fat) volumes of contemporary (& older) verse in the year after I started blogging books & putting 'em under this rubric, it's just that, well, there were lots that I didn't feel were really worth blogging about; and there were others that just so knocked me out that I dithered around, thinking about what I'd write, until something else came up; and there were times when I just plain got lazy. So sue me. You can have your money back.

My OCD is awfully fond of numbering things & keeping track of them, however. (Hey, I just finished cataloguing all the books in my office at work!) I suspect I'll continue numbering "notices" of poem-books & tagging them with the tag "more poem-books."
100 Notes on Violence, Julie Carr (Ahsahta, 2009)

A beautiful, large-format book with some very ugly things inside, a kind of tour of the American culture of hurt, with special attention to domestic violence against women and the consequences of keeping handguns around the house. Carr has a delicate ear, & her segments are often kinds of mobiles of suspended syntax & thoughtful music (that music, interestingly enough, is often country music), pressed up against sections of dense statistics (gun ownership, death rates, etc.) or intimidating text-blocks presenting the roiling insides of people in the grip of "vengeance" or other varieties of Homeric anger. What's most initially compelling, however, beyond the formal variety of the 100 "notes," is the degree to which Carr speaks in a personal voice; her narrative of her own upbringing & its emotional violence, her lyrics of maternal protection, have an stark attraction that sets all of the book's news-derived material into a frame of emotional immediacy. Of course, she may be making up the "personal" bits – I don't know; and I don't really care: they work, they take the poem beyond reportage & ventriloquizing into a space of scary realism.

(Now that I think about it, the book 100 Notes on Violence most resembles for me at the moment is Rukeyser's Book of the Dead. Go figure.)


1 comment:

DB said...


I'm glad to hear that you liked Julie Carr's book, since she's my first cousin. I may be able to tell you if some of the personal parts of her poems are real, or at least I can tell you other personal stories about her. I haven't read this book yet, but have enjoyed her earlier work,

Dan Bass