Sunday, March 30, 2008

Hummingbird: Magazine of the Short Poem 18.2 (March 2008)

Ah yes, another Hummingbird arrived earlier today. Fitting considering the time of year. Though not quite; not at these latitudes.

Always such a pleasure to flip through it though this time around nothing outstanding. Nothing distinguishing. Other than the little magazine's return from the dead.

So still, as ever, pleased with it's arrival and happy to have spent the time with it. Something akin to eating a roll of Smarties.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Dean Young, Skid

I had a hankering for a bit of surrealism. Albeit at some remove from the banal but occasionally... surreal is too dramatic a term for those moments in life... "surprising"?... And connected, where I could connect. Unlike the Simic I had read many years ago that just seemed like so much word play (and not very fun at that). So...

Start again.

I had a hankering for a bit of surrealism and found it in Dean Young's Skid.

I wasn't swept away by the collection, but I never am -- with either verse or prose -- when I enter into it expecting anything, let alone to be carried on. And somehow, for some reason -- seduced by the cover blurbs perhaps, by something I read online of his other collections -- I was expecting the world. Instead I found little crystals.
When young, fall in and out of love like a window
that is open and only about a foot off the ground.
Occasionally land in lilacs
or roses if you must
but remember, the roses
have been landed in many times.

"Whale Watch" (40)
There was my famous use of humor
that Jordan said was the avoidance of emotion.

"Even Funnier Looking Now" (81)
But isn't that all we can hope to find, are lucky to find? Crystals that speak to us in the moment?

What a good horse he is...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Christopher Hope, My Mother's Lovers

Back to South Africa.

I've really enjoyed the books of Christopher Hope's that I've read. I haven't read a lot of them -- the most egregious gap being the seminal, A Separate Development -- but I've always been engaged and entertained. And they've compelled me to think. Less about the book (which I am too busy enjoying) than about the world around me, and the world he evokes.

My Mother's Lovers is no different. It is an acerbic, pointed portrayal not just of the "new" South Africa but of the role, place, and imagination of whites in Africa more generally. I was, for the most part, thinking as much as I was enjoying -- and loving both. Through a long stretch of the book, at least.

Somewhere about the middle of the book, though, it starts to teeter on a May-December romance which never quite breaks to the banal but threatens to. And the ending is almost Coetzeean in its easy acceptance (among the characters) of the reality of what, on the surface at least, is an almost absurd swapping out of identities.

I probably should, and have erased a number of sweeping characterizations about the book being "well worth the read" because such are trite and not really all that instructive. Tastes differ, after all; and I am sure -- to read the back cover blurbs is enough to confirm this -- that others will engage this book in a very different way than I did. But this is a book that I could fairly easily work up a conference paper around (or, at least with it and the issues raised at the paper's center), and be happy doing so: rereading and mulling it all over, that is.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Tony Hoagland, Hard Rain

Tony Hoagland has to be one of the smartest, unabashed poets working in the English language today. I haven't loved everything he's written, but then that would just be weird.

Hard Rain is a great, short piece of work -- a chapbook of delight.

If I were a better poet -- hell, if I were a poet -- I could have written and dedicated "Visitation" to my past love ("I kneel and weep a little there") while "Dialectical Materialism" is the closest thing to an ode to globalization (that works) that I've read.

Talk about a crazy range; despite "how difficult it is // to be both skillful and sincere". Hoagland succeeds, I'm convinced, because he leavens both with skepticism and clear-eyed self-awareness, tapping his and our own doubts about what it is that makes up our poetry and our lives, writ both large and small.

Shorter, indeed, but more consistent (easier to do? but surely only just...) than What Narcissism Means to Me -- the first I read of Hoagland and the collection that drew me into his verse -- I have a feeling I will return to Hard Rain over the coming years. Happily, not regretfully, so.