Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Sleeping it off

I notice that August Kleinzahler's new book Sleeping It Off in Rapid City is released today. It's a 'new and selected' and I'm looking forward to seeing it. The title reminds me of an old Origin Press publication: Clive Faust's Sleeping It Off (1992).

Tony Frazer interestingly notes on the Shearsman recommendations page that despite Faust living in Bendigo, none of his books have been published in Australia.

Sleeping It Off is a beautifully produced chapbook - quoting from the colophon: "bound into Ingres Antique Camel endsheets with letterpress printed Indian Wool covers".

Faust provides snatches of urban scenes caught vividly with emotion and a sense of humour which aren't a million miles from Kleinzahler ...

... The flags
on the flagpoles at the R.S.L.
stay floodlit
in white arches of the portico, each
month monday -
that'd be

but generally the texture of the verse is a sort of article-free pronoun-free string of newspaper headlines, which - like any formal device from heroic couplets to Berryman's contorted syntax - serves to constantly present the reader with the fact that this is conscious art. Here the prolonged and static description, blow by blow, is somewhat in the vein of Joyce:


bolts gate, lugs carcass off truck,
hangs slippery liver from a free
hand, closes to gate on black leopard pacing
the double mesh, tosses liver in, secures
gate on outer wire, opens inner
from angle to slip meat through; shuts lock bolts each
gate to respective fence.

I'm reminded of one of the clauses of Bunting's advice to young poets: "Cut out every word you dare" ... one advantage of stripping out the little words is that the others words take on more individual clarity, they stand out the more. What is the origin of this article-less style? Pound with 'May I for my own self song's truth reckon, / Journey's jargon' and 'Set keel to breakers', or Hopkins? Or what about:

Blind sight, dead life, poor mortal living ghost,
Woe's scene, world's shame, grave's due by life usurp'd,
Brief abstract and record of tedious days,
Rest thy unrest on England's lawful earth,

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