East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Some poems I liked this year, part 2

Takashi Hiraide (tr. Sawako Nakayasu), For the Fighting Spirit of the Walnut 43
The spider is genius. The celerity which moves — leading the air mass — the atmosphere level that falls higher than the clouds connecting the seasons. The spider is genius. The brilliance descending omnidirectionally is not a gravity-evading parachute, but striates the entire sky, guiding drops of light towards the ground. And it just lowers itself down along the way. How can there be such transparent bones — bones that flood over, even as they break. And plus he is a seed. With endurance and imagination as nourishment, the scheme is rather null. Sorcery is rather null. A light-handed evil which admits no glory, not even your own. The spider is simply genius.

Sean O'Brien, Song: Habeas Corpus
Oh lock me in the deepest jail
And throw away the key.
The nation's desperate to be saved
From 'elements' like me.
There's none so blind,
We think you'll find
As those who cannot see.

Heh, kidding of course, that's a terrible poem.

Lynn Pedersen, "How to Speak Nineteeth Century"
Forget about the nomenclature
of the moon: lunar impact craters, rilles; your voice
translated into fiber optics or beamed pinpoint to pinpoint
on the planet. Here, all words are spoken to someone's face.
Earth. Seeds. Thresher. Plow. Timber'd.

- from New England Review (2008) 29:1

Juliana Spahr, "Gentle Now, Don't Add to Heartache"
(this is the poem of the decade or something)
We came into the world at the edge of a stream.

The stream had no name but it began from a spring and
flowed down a hill into the Scioto that then flowed into
the Ohio that then flowed into the Mississippi that
then flowed into the Gulf of Mexico.

The stream was a part of us and we were a part of the
stream and we were thus part of the rivers and thus part
of the gulfs and the oceans.

And we began to learn the stream.

Krisztina Tóth, "Rainy Summer" (tr. Kevin Nolan)
A sentence grew the deepest scar, no memory
below the sweet-skinned sleep said wake now, wake now
sentence, tracking wordless searing hatred
spinning in the flesh and wanting none—
no pause or rest or passing come to birth
a soundless sentence spoke by no one, none to hear,
sounds the cardial nightclock out of time
in empty gravelled courtyards sounds the chained-up dog,
the sentence pulsing like the sea within a scuttled hull
glistens in the berries of a dream to murmur wake now, wake now,
the shoreless stormcry carried off by blinding waters,
the measured tambour threading sea to moon

Susan Wheeler, "The Debtor in the Convex Mirror"
The painter in the mirror wants privacy, not this call that invades
the reading of a book. Your own looked out at us, but mine, Massys—
disingenuous, masquerading, stressed and damp—doesn’t; weightier
things on his mind he’s got not. But he only pretends to absorption.
It’s we who discern the privacy he wants, we who can see
what he lacks. It’s as though we’re instructed to trust the lender,
his own fix being more, well, sequestered.
The last century mined focus as a notion, and even here in Manhattan,
a delirium of sorts swabbing its streets,
we tread with the intensity of hounds,
plugged into our earpiece conjointments, or collecting loose change
off of cuffs. Massys’ grimace under-dramatizes our lot.

Sources. Some of these are from the anthology American Poets in the 21st Century, as fair a flyover look at the field as you could hope for. Other tips come from the Third Factory poll, Jordan Davis's list, and Jonathan Mayhew's 9000 poetry book project. I sort of keep track of who's winning the prizes, and while this occasionally turns up something otherwise under my radar like the Brathwaite, more often the gongs go to the likes of O'Brien. Well, there are worse injustices in the world: the loss of habeas corpus, for instance.

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