Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Recent Reading (chapbooks)

Robert Kelly, Devotions
A stapled mimeo chapbook from 1967, published by Kelly under the “Salitter” imprint. Ten poems from a series of “Devotions,” typewriter-set with some handwritten Greek words. A squiggly alluvial-looking line-drawing on the cover. Vintage arcane voluble horny Kelly, eating burned bacon and reading Lorca, polishing his wife’s shoes, meditating on the serpent form of the dii meilikhioi and the etymology of pomegranate.

Joseph Bradshaw, This Ocean, or Oppen Series
Dude this book is crazy! A work of apocryphal poetry and fake interviews and textual commentary, in the mode of After Lorca, Pale Fire and Araki Yasusada, but way more mixed up. There are fake poems by George Oppen (complete with variant readings), short essays on fake poems by George Oppen, a fake interview between George Oppen and Joseph Merrick (the “Elephant Man”) interrupted by an invisible Jack Spicer, a fake poem by Merrick, references to “the fragments of the Ancient Greek poet George Oppen,” real quotations from Oppen and Spicer (both attributed and not), numerous references to Gus van Sant’s movies, a transcription of Spicer’s first poem from “Thing Language” italicized and broken into disyllabic “feet,” and some other poems presumably attributable to the Ancient West Coast Cro-Magnon poet Joseph Bradshaw. The whole thing is very tightly knit together and often cheekily funny, but stays incomprehensible and unpredictable and spookily arbitrary too. Oppen and Spicer very different poets, both revered for extraordinary integrity and intensity, tied up in both their cases with a caustic skepticism and a capacity for silence and waiting. They sometimes feel like mythic, inhuman figures (though Spicer was also a master of parody and self-parody). This Ocean confuses the two of them in an unsettling way and excitingly walks a line between deadpan parody/appropriation and obsessive admiration. See also Chris Piuma’s review at The Agora.

Chris Piuma, The Old City
Folded loosely pamphlet, edition of 20! From back in 2001. My favorite is “On the Celebration of Men”:
I come to bury Caesar, not to stall his swagger, aggrandize support on ivory pedestal, or enervate him rugged yellow-lipped hooked up and fed through sub-woofer bellowing: “There I go”, a study, tense, Boccioni in this focused still frame, but if we study over a moment we’ll miss, disparu, gone west, manifesto in hand, seedy, he scattered hours ago, so not to squeeze out any of, a harmful solution even on theoretical terms, cream of wheat, leg of lamb, eye of newt, your basic acid . . .
This sentence goes on for another page or so, with some questions along the way (“does he mind?, is he straw?, of bendy will?”).

Joseph Massey, Out of Light
These poems are tiny perfectly-articulated perpetual-motion machines, kind of Niedecker-meets-Armantrouty-sounding Every syllable is subtly crosstied to other syllables. Nothing wobbles. My favorite poem is the longest and messiest one, “Shay Park.” But I also like this “Path”:
whacked to pulp
between slits
in cinder
blocks laid
in gravel.
A path
to these
porch steps,
their chipped
blue paint
—the rain-
stained wood
cracked through.

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