East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Not that you care: new poems and such

David Larsen, "On Melodrama" (The Thorn, Faux Press)

The Thorn is filled with swishiness, and the XIVIX-painting section, filled with fifty pizzas and full-lipped Osama and the pancake vendor's tragedy (which gets a stirring, weepy coda in the next section), is as mordantly impressive as anything I recall reading in a first book of poetry. The two deepest pieces, though, are mini-essays -- one a joking bio of the soothsayer Satih, interrupted by a chanted translation of Satih's prophecy of Islam; the other refuting conversational accusations of melodrama:

One might think the accusation of MELODRAMA typically arises from the self-serving motive of dismissing an outburst which the accuser has him or herself provoked. This is sometimes the case, but not always, for MELODRAMA very often betrays an active resentment of the accused's emotive liberty...

MELODRAMA is about the lamest thing you can say to someone. If you find that a companion you have accused of MELODRAMA goes to turn his or her back on you, you should feel no surprise.

Huang CanRan, "Translation" (tr. the author and Meredith Quartermain, Trout 13/Tinfish 16)

The Pan-Pac fusion of Auckland journal Trout and Honolulu journal Tinfish has turned out swimmingly, with work from Juliana Spahr a highlight. This one's a translation of a poem about, among other things, what nobody caring about translation symptomizes.

Since these towns had strange names
which readers didn't know,
he thought, why not delete them and put
'Pristina, Prizren and other towns'?
He was sure his boss wouldn't care; but,
considering his duty, he thought, this jerrybuilding's no good,
so he checked the voluminous Geographic Dictionary of the World,
and found that Wuteqien was Vucitrn and Genilanei was Gnjilane.

Lyn Hejinian, "The Late Metaphor" (Coconut 5)

One of the ten or so greatest living poets, she's reading on campus at Berkeley this Thursday, with current top ten poet Lisa Robertson (memo to UC: since Robertson's on the payroll, how about getting all her books into the library?) and other faculty. Of the five poems at Coconut, "Primo" is the most read-aloudable, while "The Late Metaphor" has football in it:

Just as the events of the week absorb suspicion
into the present contents of the alphabet A
to Z, which cannot be any more autobiographical than Luther Burbank's new fruits
but must be taken literally as a fiction even
as each is taken figuratively as a fool’s face on a body of abstract notions, so
a football player's yard
gaining dash when described as flitting matches
the football player’s body to a "butterfly theme" at a point of disembodiment too sardonic and plaintive than is wise

Anna Smaill, "Little Song" (Best New Zealand Poems 2005)

Shorter than The Terminal.

We maze around
and shuttle and miss.
All this for your kiss. The cache is
the surprise of your lashes.

Merrill Gilfillan, "Men Looking for Wives" (Hanging Loose 88)

All killer no filler: aren't Significant Moment stories so better when they're under 2000 words?

When I left the bottomland half an hour late and walked toward my car, I saw the plane sitting just across a fence in a pasture flat, and a man about my age walking restlessly back and forth beside it, waiting for me. That's how I met Halfhill. He had seen me with my 20-gauge working through the wild plum tangles and he was instantly hooked by a simple vicarious bond, the boyish longing to be down there kicking up rabbits himself. Hooked enough he rolled up his sleeves and helped me clean my game. We were friends from then on.


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