Third Factory/Notes to Poetry

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Featured Title – What’s In Store by Trevor Joyce

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Trevor Joyce | What’s in Store | The Gig/New Writers’ Press | 2007 | Goodreads | LibraryThing | 4 mentions in Attention Span 2008

joyce-storeIf verse is a turning, the short poems here have some of the tightest corners on the road. New poems as if carved in stone; old folksongs from Ireland, Hungary and all over the map made new; birdsong collaged. A big book of lyric poetry plus: “not all / plants / are alike // some are / astringent / some are / salty // some sour / some sweet // some men / are short / -lived / some long // some ugly / others fortunate // weak strong / stupid clever / poor rich // was it / brevity / you wanted?” (Keith Tuma)

This year’s discovery. Thanks, Nate. (Mark Truscott)

Reading around in its strange and bold and marvelous pieces, pieces that seemingly sprout out of nowhere, that exhibit incredible variety, that often enough seem spoke by ancient voices up out of the boggy penetrable earth, I think how what one cannot speak of, one calls genius, or quotes too lengthily. Joyce’s range is phenomenal. The book opens with a lovely set of tiny things, the “Folk Songs from the Finno-Ugric and Turkic Languages,” work’d up out some rudimentary literal versions. Here’s one:

A birch tree
bends on the hill.
For a plough, girls chop
a handle.

That moustache,
is it your first?
For caps, girls braid
fine tassels.

Which seems to catch that particular moment of adolescence when the girls’re outstripping the boys and there’s a combo of taunting and impatience and self-reliance going on amongst them. Too, Joyce reworks a series he calls “Love Songs from a Dead Tongue,” out of fifteenth c. (and earlier) Irish originals, and a series of “some of the surviving poems by Juan Chi (pinyin Ruan Ji, 210-263).” The upshot of the threading through of translations and versions is a splendid estrangedness, where the alien flips into customary, and one’s happiest reading the song of a horse:

How happy the life of a horse! Hey!
Till the end when they mock him
and whip him and kick him,
and for Purgatory sell him to gypsies.

Thirty years I served one man,
hauled his harness like a colt,
now I’m old I’m down and done for,
corn-stalks hurt my gums.

Smiths and farriers rot in hell!
Your tackle was the death of me,
they broke my head, they stole my skin,
now sheep dogs sniff my meat.

(John Latta)

Also mentioned by David Dowker.

Written by Steve Evans

June 2, 2009 at 2:07 pm

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