East Bay View (a blog about several things)

now 98% free of substantive content

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Some poems I liked last year

Alice Notley, "Radical Feminist" (from Alma, or The Dead Women)
I haven't come close to finishing Alma: 300 pages of one-faced gender critique is too much for me. But there's a sequence where the anger crystallises into one of the bitterest rages against violence ever written, and that sequence starts with "Radical Feminist", which deserves its title.

"how will we dead women avenge ourselves now when there will be nothing but vengeance transpiring. oh these distractions says one. we intend that you keep on the subject says another. keeping on the subject is part of our vengeance. i am touched by men's love says the third but it isn't a world. men have died too someone says. they can take care of themselves someone else says but don't let one come near me again in the name of care. i want a chance to care for myself, perhaps i finally have that being a dead woman."

Christopher Middleton, "Orbiana" (from The Tenor on Horseback)
When he's at his best, which is quite often in The Tenor on Horseback, Middleton still writes more prettily than anyone. At other times he just writes pettily (calling Rafael Nadal a baboon; fortunately he's not under the jurisdiction of the ICC). The linked Shearsman 67/68 conveniently features three prime poems. "The First Portrait" and especially "Orbiana" show that historical drama in verse is only as dead as it always was.

"I could never help uttering a light soupir,
Just one, whenever the times
Were hard; today
Just one more, it hardly passed my lips,
But murdered they were, such news,
Murdered near Mayence, those two
Who sent me here, to Leptis Magna."

Tadeuz Rozewicz, "the professor's knife" (tr. Joanna Trzeciak, from Triquarterly 126)
Old Pole and friend recall weaponry/cutlery, war and breakfast.

"'I've thought more about my knife,
the one made from the hoop of a barrel.
It would be carried in the hem
of my death camp clothes
since they might confiscate it
and one could pay dearly...
So it served its purposes,
not just utilitarian
but far more intricate ones...'"

Penelope Shuttle, "Missing You" (from Redgrove's Wife)
Shuttle's mourning sequence obsesses through April and May, China and India, Tesco and Sainsbury.

"I make my home in your absence,
take your smallest hope
and make it grow
I wake to the dusk of everywhere
as if assisting at my own birth
or arriving in a country
where all the rivers settle down to be ice"

Jen Tynes, "Suspension" (from The Hat 7)
The Hat 7 was the best journal issue I read last year, or least the only one I read all the way through. "Suspension" is my fave in there by a whisker from a Rae Armantrout miniture ("One lizard/jammed headfirst//down the throat/of a second.")

"...Everyone looks
into my hollow and hollers
their own names.
I give it all
back in pieces."



Post a Comment

<< Home