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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Over-analyzed. Again.

In which we use all our words


Remember that post that was not a poem, which ended with the word ‘semantics’ in parentheses? The one where the imaginary critics over-analyzed a poem that didn’t exist? A couple weeks after that, a guy named Charles Wright was named poet laureate of the United States. New poets laureate are always big news -- well, not CNN alert news, those lean heavily on mass shootings, political upheaval, and dead celebrities -- but you’ll hear a story or two on NPR and even the network news will close with little biographical features. That I was not familiar with Charles Wright’s work was unsurprising and a little depressing -- one more modern poet of whom I’m ignorant -- and an opportunity to make Amazon richer. Or the used-book sellers anyway. Now comes the mail and ‘Negative Blue’ and ‘The World of World of Ten Thousand Things’ with it, titles I like a lot, especially being the writer of a very bad poem about blue myself. Anyway, in ‘Negative Blue,' 'Reading Lao Tzu Again in the New Year,': ‘Snub end of a dismal year / deep in the dwarf orchard, / The sky with its undercoat blackwash and point stars / I stand in the dark and answer to / My life, this shirt I want to take off, / which is on fire … / … Prosodies rise and fall. / Structures rise in the mind and fall. / Failure reseeds the old ground. / Does the grass, with its inches in two worlds, love the dirt? / Does the snowflake the raindrop….’ This I like very much. Except I have to go back and look up prosodies and Lao Tzu, which makes me feel uneducated and ignorant, perhaps rightly so. Part of me wonders, why presage an otherwise accessible poem with a reference to a Taoist philosopher? Because you can, I guess, and it’s a good way to brag about the kind of stuff you’re reading. Now here’s another one, ‘Driving through Tennessee,’ a thoroughly plebian title, sturdy and unassuming: ‘-- I am their music, / Mothers and fathers and places we hurried through in the night: / I put my mouth to the dust and sing their song. / Remember us, Galeoto, and whistle our tune, when the time comes, / For charity’s sake.’ This the last stanza and there I go googling Galeoto. Is Wright referencing the Italian footballer or the play by José Echegaray y Eizaguirre? Or something else? Again I’m too stupid to know, and the poem’s meaning obscured behind semantics. (Coincidentally.) But all this is incidental to the connection to the (non) poem with semantics in parentheses. Because real critics said this about Charles Wright: ‘In his zones of dislocation -- between the Christian and the biological, between Europe and America, and between the allegorical and the visible -- Wright finds a scene of writing unique to himself and to his historical moment, and phrases it over and over in his musical and grieving half-lines, themselves the very rhythm of spacious contemplative musing’ -- Helen Vendler, ‘The New Republic.’ Well. What the hell does that mean? I, too, feel I’ve entered a ‘zone of dislocation’ -- although in more prosaic, pop-culturally referential terms, The Twilight Zone. And why ‘grieving’? But Ms. Vendler’s observations are only a warm-up to this one (ed. note: sit down): ‘If Wright, in his earliest work collected in “Country Music,” can be seen as a hermetic poet of ideogrammatic intensity and purity, his late style is baroque: obscurity refracts into transparency, surfaces into depths, the aphoristic into the radiant image, narrative into song. The poet dwells in the indwelling (ed note: ?) of meditation where the seen and the unseen are appraised and apportioned, but final judgement is withheld….’ -- Eric Pankey, ‘Verse.’ Translation, to me: Wright’s poems may make no sense to anyone but himself; however, they are so pretty you’ll like them anyway. (Also, the reviewer knows a lot of big words.) Which is what the hermetic school means -- take my word for it, I looked it up. Also the ideogrammatic part -- and Pankey mentions Ezra Pound in an unquoted sentence of his review. I made up a bunch of stuff critics may have said about the poem I dreamed with semantics in parentheses that makes no more sense than these real critics. But that dream poem may have. Made sense, that is. With or without the parentheses. With or without readers.

Yea. That's just how I feel.


Throw your soul through every open door  /Count your blessings to find what you look for /Turn my sorrow into treasured gold / You'll pay me back in kind and reap just what you sow

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