Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


March reads

In writing about my reading, I've mentioned the recent turn towards poetry, but not the more recent turn towards more recent poetry, now getting its turn. Only now, in part because of the now somewhat less extensive gaps in my reading of established (or historied) poets, more because of a pro- and confusion of signposts, contradictory and unreliable, hard to distinguish from and among the billboards. The samplings and commentary in lit-mags and websites are all over the place, often insubstantial as adverts, whereas academia evokes "a breakfast joint in Los Angeles [where] old comedians gather: They tell jokes, but they never laugh. Instead, they just say, 'That's funny'." Granted, there's a lot more competence in the craft out there, but also less to say and more saying it, seemingly more than are listening, yes an embarrassment of riches but hidden amid much greater embarrassments.

So thanks to a little help from my friends, in particular Steven (no mean elegiast himself) who put me on to Susan Howe (wow, poetry and Peirce! got The Midnight queued up) and, more recently, as in this past month:
Carl Phillips, Quiver of Arrows: Selected Poems 1986-2006 really gave a sense of evolution as poet, the stuff before 2000 well-crafted but more tentative, miss-or-hit tho not without moments, but then, after, the assurance that sustains those moments, often thru the full poem, and the refinements of technique and idiolect that make it happen (eg the structural overlay of breaks and italics, the latter multivoicing);
Timothy Donnelly, The Cloud Corporation, one apparent heir to Ashbery, demonstrates, among other things, an art of modification of commodification, the repackaging of myth and of prior art, a dialogue between form and function, an argument about what the culture has become.
(and now Steven's on about Adam Fitzgerald ...)
I would be remiss in not mentioning, last fall, Mahendra's standing a round of D.A.Powell's Cocktails, adding his own long lines; see also an amazingly long lineage ...

which (setting aside the near-misattribution) segues into another, both a poet and a mathematician, in the latter role former head of Morgan Stanley Fixed Income Research when I worked there some 20 years back (and with whom I worked on yield curve representation): Jim Tilley, who retired to launch another career as poet, and with whom I reconnected with this year, in person at his reading at KGB Bar (along with Frannie Lindsay & Nick Flynn, under the auspices of Kate Gale's Red Hen Press).
In Confidence, his debut collection, shows him finding a form that integrates his background in maths (but differentiated from the Oulipo project) without letting them dominate, more as a repository of analogy, another prism through which to diffract the human condition, with its own limitations, what I like to call warmly analytic; finding a voice, sometimes doubled, parallax views spanning between poems. I'll let him speak for himself, in verse and interview, and in his forthcoming collection, Cruising from Sixty to Seventy: Poems and Essays (and it looks as if he'll be back at KGB Bar come September). (Speaking for myself, the project interests me beyond the personal connection, as I've essayed into the territory myself, f'rinstance Rough Cut or Regula Falsi.)

Other reading:

Lorrie Moore, Bark: up there with BofA, in fact with some of the objectionables muted, or at least transmuted (see below). Of the 8 stories, for me only the Nabokov tribute fell flat (but I can see why she felt she had to do it), and the tendrils between stories adds something further (though I can see David Auerbach's complaint of "creepy, sub-supernatural angstploitation [... stemming from an] impulse to impose a private 'outsider' view on ordinary materials through sheer will -- because that's the only thing that can make it worthwhile. [...] It's a lousy approach." Too harsh, but nonetheless pertinent:
"HOSPICE CARE: IT'S NEVER TOO SOON TO CALL read a billboard near the coffee shop in what constituted the neighborhood's commercial roar. Next to it a traffic sign read PASS WITH CARE. Surrealism could not be made up. It was the very electricity of the real."
The story "Foes" is pure provocation, a poke at progressivism which succeeds in pissing off reviewers for The New Republic and the NY Observer, though otherwise it probably reflects more of the flaws inherent to A Gate at the Stairs ...anyway, the overall impulse here is more to set personal failures against those of the world at large (with variable results).
on to a trio on the writerly (and the place of such in culture) (or is it t'other way 'round?):
Gerald Murnane, The Plains: somewhere between Inland and Barley Patch but all are must-reads. Rare unanimity on that lit chatboard.
B.S. Johnson, Albert Angelo: MAO preferred Christie Malrey's Own Double-Entry which disappointed, but I'm in agreement with him on this'un.
Toomas Vint, An Unending Landscape (Eric Dickens):a nice conceit, 3 versions or variations around writing one story, from po-mo to mo to pre-mo, but I found execution to be wanting as it progressed or rather regressed, the last one derivative of Chekhov's "Lady with Lapdog" (if you're going to do that you gotta get yer game up to that level), so kinda like passed through the Austerizer.
and ...
Kingsley Amis, Take a Girl Like You: A tease and a bastard: the book, that is. Well, and the author. Oh yeah, the main characters too. And everybody. But unlike what else I've read of his, the denouement outdoes the ride.
Gilbert Sorrentino, The Abyss of Human Illusion: the art of disenchantment, of demi-mendacity, late vintage Sorrentino, valedictory and maledictory.
Wilma Stockenström, The Expedition to the Baobob Tree (J.M Coetzee): the latest from my favorite publisher, a tale of loss compounded from which much is to be gained.