‘Psychedelic Meadow’

Jeremy Reed’s new collection, which I picked up after reading it in Tears in the Fence, where he sounded like he’d only part left the 60s poetry scene. On the surface the collection wheels spectacularly and with such fluency (Reed is obviously a creative type), but beneath that – and I think Silliman would call this the poems’ effect, how shifts in a poem can combine, there is anger. This took a while for me to realize, the language was so unusual, by the poem Fukt. Perhaps a dead friend whom he took acid with. The puzzle this collection asks is whether the psychedelic form he is using is alienated and alienating, fit to purpose, or parodic. A line in Fukt reads:

no connection between person and thing


Making it like Eliot

Forgetting an emotion recollected in tranquility


Perfect Pitch

Prof. Bernstein was kind enough to send a pre-publication copy of one chapter, to me a few years ago. I guess the phrase links open field, to Zukofsky and l=a=n=g=u=a=g=e; which is apt as that’s what i asked B. about (and why i named my manifesto noise-querical”

The book is very good, and shows off B.’s technical virtuosity, aptly. Aside from its list of equations and poets (the “schizophrenic” diagnosed poet – Weiner – gets a nod, an oddly brief note – explicitly there saying “she had perfect pitch) and its treatment of American nationality, there is this phrase that we are “all” everyone language now.

I guess that means it is the self in lyric poetry that sets off to begin again, as opposed to the work, inverted, which would begin again to set off.

Separating, then, author and text.


Future work

Can it – really – improve my ‘ear’?

I feel like I have some basic things to work out about ‘representation’, its importance etc.. If narrative is a representation of the stakes, as Antin seems to say, a resolution, then maybe the image should be merely possible, especially as authentic “desire” is for the fullness of the possible, rather than the actual. Further study into ‘desire’ – and how it relates to the grotesque – might help me clarify how to use images.

To start with, desire for the critically perfect links a statement of desire in the image to the world outside it, so theories of desire, both literary and political, should order my nomadic impulse, and making it more authentic.


‘Of Better Scrap’

I have not read much Shakespeare. The title page quotes from Loves Labours Lost “They have been at a great feast of Language, and stolen the scraps”.

I am at a loss with most of the poems, but they may be focused on photography – my edition has a photo of lightning glued to the cover – and the first poem ends emphatically “final perfect storm”, with its etymological overtones of an assault or attack. The pull out poem mentions a pair of lapwings, and the unusual diction throughout, shrill but short, reminds me of its song. I’ll quote the – uncharacteristic – last poem in full (LAND FLOWN SO FEW).

Not known nor new, one mend or mind attune

how so for more to do, where land and saw

by law in sound, to fend or done where found,

to send in pair and bond, low or snow-bound,

land flown so few, as near in kind or there

and bind, appear by care in fund. Or end.

Independent of its heavy tone, which is unusual, there is strong emphasis on the line end, from the first line, which – in turn – seems to emphasize the end rhymes at the middle.

Could a “pair” of lapwings be not just an opportunity to rhyme (lapwing is related to the Old English for wink, as well as lap – fold – and wing) but also symbolic for language sounds, the “fund” of language. One imagines that an interest in rhyme, especially end rhymes, is quite defensive in contemporary poetry.

I am left groping for meaning and structure in most of the poems. But there is consistency to something here, not just prolixity. A lot of the phrases seem like lyric instructions, probably due to the absence of pronouns, ones that seem – rather than sound – horrified.




‘Not Bondi Beach’

The longest poem in this short collection, A LULL, is centered on homelessness. The most startling phrase was “among the boots & nets / a child’s cry / tangled in the bows”, which – as well as drawing on Homer – is surprisingly realist, despite not dropping the tune, which was earlier remarked on: “hear it ask for forgiveness / plead insanity”. An unusual misreading ordered my first take on A LULL: “a pub garden / on a June evening / seem a sea calmed”; I read ‘calmed’ as ‘cold’.

In light of my recent post on Brass, the “The shifting stair”, in COLD p16 of poems 2000-2010, seems to refer to ‘The Winding Stair’ romance novel by AEW Mason, and Yeats’ collection after ‘The Tower’ – including its interest in death, with its “wild”, strange, meaning. I’m primarily interested in whether there is a deliberate doubling of high – Yeats – and kitsch – Mason – art, given I also read the low art substitution of a “stairway to heaven” there.

As that would be an exact mirror image of my analysis of – perhaps all the poems in Brass – which I think folds ‘art’ and ‘culture’ into ‘kitsch’. Perhaps why a child struggling to ride a boat – with its sentimental – if here authentic value – was so striking.

I cannot say if these poems are a success. Fisher lurks. The line is suitable, and the collection has a lot of heart, whether Baker is writing on a woman, a friend, a worker.



‘Brass’, ii

Smooth Landing (p191 in Poems)

“There is a lie of the immortal […] he boils his egg”

I see this poem in Brass as in effect maintaining and developing the tension between avant garde and art, and thereby, kitsch and low brow.

The first phrase – DEFINITELY – seems pseudo kitsch, in Greenberg’s sense of using art “values” exclusive of ‘expression’. It’s hackneyed sentiment, however formally coherent. Content is made less relevant, by the structure (making sense) of the rest of the poem (“peace with honour”: a repudiation)

The second phrase – clearly to me – is low brow, but in a different sense (is it a post modern collage?). It makes the poem, but so robustly that – given content – it’s slightly absurd, as if a parody of closure; even as there are links with the ‘cataract’ in the penultimate line, a doubling that mirrors the dynamic of the kitschy introduction – from ease / speed, to old age / blindness (or perhaps vice versa).

The poem reads like an avant garde work that erases all that is said in so much as it collapses into a meaningful whole, when the poet aligns the importance of his avant garde erasure with the indeterminate figuration. Yet the ‘whole’ does not – for me – suggest either metonymic reading is preferable; which is puzzling.

So, perhaps the work is a success if it is not a “lie”, if interior to the poem “the immortal” has “honour”. If so, that is a matter of form


Ed Dorn’s ‘The North Atlantic Turbine’

Quoting from an early poem:

“there came on Lexden road / a long, high hearse / with a sloping back like a / medium hill. / a man in funereal garments / rode shotgun / his face under the black / top hat / a grinning / memento mori”

These poems remind me of how form – shape – is historically mediated content that has, via the artistic impulse, become irrelevant to form. Ed Dorn wont sit still, content seems incidental to what is said. The philosopher Josh Robinson claims on a phrase of Adorno’s:

“Sedimentation refers here to a process whereby the content of what come to be artworks […] ceases to be relevant (or even exist), while the objects continue to be made with the same or similar features.”

Could one see Prynne’s poetic career as the extension of that?


‘In Darkest Capital’ i


Whatever the problem

we’ve developed the answer.

The result is a range that takes

caring for your hair seriously –

because we know you do.

(from READY-MADES IN VOGUE: a student’s guide to capitalist poetry)

Lurking in the slogans – is a “language forcing itself through content”, and it shocks, horrifying the ready made daily routine: ‘problem’ solved (‘loosened’) not just answered.

These seem the most accessible poems in the collection.