Attention Span – Dawn Michelle Baude
Keston Sutherland | Neutrality | Barque | 2004
Upon returning from 18 years abroad, I asked two poets tens years my junior what book I should buy. They put Neutrality into my grasping hand. Hence I encountered Sutherland’s work for the first time and fell in love, literally, with the whoosh-plop-boom of that verbal cascade. It surges from its source with a delightful rhythm, to the point that I suspect the layout on the page provides the syllogistic pretext for the argument of the poem without exerting a durable impact on prosody (this bears further consideration). I like the fact that this work doesn’t take itself too seriously, an important consideration when a lot of what’s available to read in the US seems to move from a homogenous, self-congratulatory careerism.
Mel Nichols | The Beginning of Beauty | Edge | 2007
Nichols is one of my favorite poets and this book is full of what she does best: the insightful quotidian of being human, combined with a wacky, prickly sense of humor and inflected with a staunch political acumen—Kyger and Notley reverberate here, with a little of Hejinian and Darragh in the mix. Nichols is capable of range—The Beginning of Beauty has an acerbic wit that takes a back seat in her “Day Poem” series, where the mood is quieter and engages a flexible, compelling query into the new humanism—I’m a devoted fan of the Day Poems. Beauty is, of course, beautiful—a joy to hold, with its intimate, polysemous blue secret. That tip-in is so erotic.
Robert Creeley | The Niagara Magazine: Robert Creeley—A Dialogue | 1978
Oh Lord—what a gem—everything so deeply, irrevocably Creeley, in conversation with Kevin Power in Buffalo in 1976. If a book had arms, I’d want to crawl into them here. I found this issue which managed, somehow, to survive the pulverizing fists of time at a very cool second-hand bookshop specialized in impossibly hard-to-find poetry publications—Hermitage—in Beacon, Lower Hudson Valley.
Joseph Lease | Broken World | Coffee House | 2007
I’ve carried this book from country to country for the last year and a half, picking it up whenever I need to think—or rather hear—the poem. Lease has something of Palmer in him, something of Creeley, a bit of Spicer. The argument of the book is chilling, and sad, and somehow, redemptive. I’m into reading books where I actually feel a poet on the other side, the flesh & blood one, who knows when to cast identity upon the page like a stone tossed into the lake. I read a book like this and I want to borrow some of his moves and drink a glass of Merlot.
VA | The Grand Piano: An Experiment in Collective Autobiography | Mode A | 2006-
Basically anywhere that Barrett Watten’s brain has been I want to check out. It’s like going in for an oil change—are we thinking? Really thinking? As someone who’s had a voyeur’s view of the Language Poets from the get-go, I like to keep an eye on them, all of them. And the Grand Piano series is not a disappointment. If I can recuperate the word “panoptic” to employ in a pre-Foucaultian/Bentham sense, I would. But the quantum viewpoint might be better to describe this document in collective autobiography. At any rate, for a movement that has consistently faced accusations of mannerism (and a lot worse), the embodied narratives of Grand Piano provide the waves that those hard-copy particles need. Give a Language Poet a hug.
Buck Downs | Let It Rip | Washington, DC | 2007
I came across these poems this summer and I had to re-read. Downs’ line is so tight, the torque between words so high, the potential energy would seem a bit dangerous, were it not for lyric commitments. Tenderness, especially. The focus on juxtaposition of grammatical units functions differently from the trajectories we’re accustomed to follow, given the predictable paratactic idioms of our age. You have to read these poems slowly, word by word, as if the conditions of their making required more than a casual performative reconstruction. There’s wit here, in abundance, and keen social commentary, and a kind of revelatory intimacy, too.
Andrew Schelling | Wild Form & Savage Grammar | La Alameda | 2003
I didn’t know the US had any kind o f Ecological movement in poetry until I recently came across this book. The question that Schelling poses—how can we have a writing that also commits to the compelling issues of Ecology—is certainly worth considering, even (or especially) at this belated standpoint. Since Ecology is not, as far as I can ascertain, anywhere near the heart of contemporary poetics, Schelling turns often to Asia for ideas that were waylaid in history, a tendency that endears me to this book since many US poets have truncated their connection to the past as a source of meaningful information and finally end-up looking awfully provincial. Schelling is a good, clear essayist, so he took me places I hadn’t been before.
Kevin Davies | The Golden Age of Paraphernalia | Edge | 2008
Sharp, witty, incisive—this book has a lot to keep me busy. The prosody (the driving issue for this reader) catches my eye because Davies has a lot of textured variation. The main thrust, so to speak, of the poet’s concerns is contemporary social commentary, and this commentary is rich and informed. But it’s the reoccurring pig image/references that hooked me! Since I’ve been out of the country for so long, Davies is a wonderful discovery.
More Dawn Michelle Baude here.