Thursday, June 14, 2012

Singular Intensity - Concentrating All Her Gifts

Mark Doty described Lynda Hull's all-or-nothing approach to writing, and how this worked on him as an influnce: "She worked at her art with a singular intensity, and in each new poem she'd raise the stakes as high as she could, putting everything at risk, putting herself into her coruscating, elegant texts. So one had to live up to that, poems had to matter that much."

I am reminded of Richard Aldington's recollection walking through a graveyard with T. S. Eliot and discussing Thomas Gray's Elegy. Eliot remarked that "if a contemporary poet, conscious of his limitations as Gray evidently was, would concentrate all his gifts on one such poem he might achieve a similar success."

And I also think - with closer relevance - of Van Gogh's remarks about working furiously because the opportunities for work do not recur, and working quickly like an old lion who kills with a single blow of the paw, and his talk of the delight, and the troubles, cares and disappointments, and the times of helplessness, that go with the calling of an artist.

I remember reading some of Lynda Hull's poems in litmags towards the end of 1993 and being struck by them, the way whole worlds were created with rich detail, and the way deep feeling seemed part of the fabric of each line. I was thinking of writing to ask for some poems for a magazine I was editing, but procrastinated. Months went by and then by chance I heard that she had died.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Poor Monk, dying

Thelonious and the Baroness
An old article in the NY Times about Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, a new book of her photos, and an exhibition at Gallery at Hermès, brought bak to mind one of the first poems I read by August Kleinzahler ... 'Love Poem' from 1989 book Earthquake Weather. The poem starts with a striking mixing of registers

As long as the cat comes home
and the skinheads keep
to their concrete shell, over the fence
screaming break your face smashing empties

It was the ending of the poem that came to mind:

Poor Monk, dying at the Baroness's
on the hill above Weehawken
night after night
cars sluicing into the tunnel below

into the city, fanning lights
across the broad river
the West Side throbbing
across black water

out of notes, dying

The compact efficiency of that image of cars sluicing, bringing a zing of energy to the more familiar idea of a 'river of cars', and that ending hangs in the air, like a musical phrase unresolved, a cadence that doesn't quite bring us home to the tonic.

And the black water, and the death of Thelonious Monk, the cat who came home.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Everything is as it ...

A juxtaposition, an echo ...

Peter Rose ...

Beginning your daily aria you assure us
'Everything is as it might have been,'

Kenneth Rexroth ...

While I dream, everything is as it used to be.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Get thee to a winery

The title of this post is a line from Peter Rose: it is from the poem 'More Mutant Proverbs (after Peter Porter)' in Crimson Crop. The poem is a list of one-liners that might have otherwise blushed unseen in notebooks. Auden is in thw wings murmuring "weakness for bad puns". Rose is well-stocked … "When in Rome, pay the Romans", "Blessed are the chic", "Après toi, le subterfuge" …

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Apocryphal Past

I am very much enjoying leafing through Peter Rose's new collection Crimson Crop.

The poem 'Green Park' carries the dedictation 'for Peter Porter' and ends with the resonant line

Silent we follow the apocryphal past

A seemingly Porteresque line, and 'apocryphal' feels like a Porteresque word, but I can't actually think of a single instance where Porter uses it (blog comments on this point greatly appreciated!). And if this is the case it raises an interesting question about what I am thinking when I think it is the sort of word he would have used.