Friday, June 20, 2008

STL #73: Three (Once) Young Poets

On Ed Dorn, Jonathan Williams, and Joel Oppenheimer

One thing I'm not doing well in this project is reading the poems in context. Although I've been mindful of the anthology as an artifact of the 'poetry wars' of circa 1960, I tend not to think of the individual poets as existing at the time the poems were written--rather, I'm thinking of most of the poets, the ones I am familiar with at least, in the context of their careers and the poems as indicators of some single aesthetic realized over the course of a career. The thing I've been forgetting is that these guys are all young. With the exception of Charles Olson, who was fifty in 1960, and Robert Duncan (41), everyone I've written about was under 40 at the time of publication. The three men I'll be writing about today, Ed Dorn, Jonathan Williams, and Joel Oppenheimer, were all students at Black Mountain in the 1950s and were around 30 in 1960. In that spirit, I'll be reading their poems as the poems of young men.

Ed Dorn was 27 when he wrote "The Rick of Green Wood." I know Dorn's work fairly well. I've read his long poem Slinger two times; I also like his North Atlantic Turbine. His humor, masculine blinders, and line seem similar to Paul Blackburn's. You can see most of these qualities in "The Rick of Green Wood" which tells an anecdote of Dorn taking his daughter into the Skagit valley woods to purchase firewood for his wife. I suppose it's self-consciously mature in its dramatic situation: a man in the woods, doing business on behalf of his wife and family. During the business transaction, he literally declares his presence: "My name is Dorn, I said." His identity, still taking the traditional shape of adulthood. The poem is strangely like a folk ballad in the way an action is elaborately described but the consequences of it arenot entirely clear. Dorn is adamant that the "rick of wood" (an archaic measurement) not be green because his wife couldn't handle it: "Her back is slender/and the wood I get must not/bend her too much through the day." That seems considerate, but suggests that Dorn might be leaving her "in the november/air, in the world, that was getting colder." And who is this woodsman "Burlingame," with whom Dorn exchanges names and spends time "there in the woodyard talking/pleasantly, of the green wood and the dry"? Burlingame seems the most important person in poem, more than the wife, daughter, or Dorn himself. These questions are subtly suggestive, and the poem rich enough to nourish but not resolve them.

I also know Jonathan Williams's work fairly well, having read his thick selected Jubilant Thicket and his earlier selected An Ear in Bartrams Tree, which I quite admire.* (I bought the first New Direction paperback printing of this book a few years ago for the list price of $1.95. It had apparently been sitting on the shelf since 1972.) In a way, Williams was the James Laughlin of Black Mountain. Although he was known as a publisher of important poetry, he wrote exquisite, witty, frequently erotic poems himself. "A Little Tumescence" shows his light touch. It's not the kind of poem you can describe, so

This time, I mean it:

twice tonight!

(omne animal, always

The Hope

Triste, triste

situation, such outrageous

limitation,

limp,

simply



I always think of Williams as an old man, and in fact his aesthetic seems fully mature here at the ripe old age of 25. He's self-deprecating, off-handedly learned, and shows the finely tuned ear you'd expect of one of Zukofsky's publishers. Look at the sequence of i's, from the pair of optimist long vowels in "twice tonight" that shrivel up to a chain of short sounds that are "limp, simply." This poem may have been written by a young man, but it's not a young man's poem.

Finally, there's Joel Oppenheimer, who was only 23 when he wrote "The Bath." This is a young man's poem. Like Dorn's, it is shrouded in the mantle of maturity. It describes, from the point of view of a commanding masculine presence, "his" wife taking a bath. It's quite dated in form and content. I guess it implies a critique of the patriarchal society it portrays: "what he is most pleased about is/her continuing bathing./in his tub. in his water. wife." That quote also shows the stylistic ticks in this selection: a lack of capitalization and a bounty of sentence fragments. As far as I can determine, these are meaningless affectations of a young man.

So, there you have it. Three poems by young men: two good, one overcoming the poet's youth and the other irrelevant to age; and one bad because of the poet's youth. I guess I'm happy to be growing old, though these three men had a lot more to show for themselves when they hit 30 than I do now. Ah, well, at least I can criticize!

I hope to do more more posting for the rest of the summer, but I might take a break from my Test of Poetry. I've made it to the end of the Black Mountain section, and there's a few other things I've been meaning to write about before delving into the San Francisco section. For instance:

/reading/: a rash of fantasy novels, something I haven't done for 20+ years
/watching/: a few of the summer's superhero movies, season 3 of Entourage
/listening/: moving into the requiem form, listening to VU's Loaded repeatedly

*Gilbert Sorrentino on JW: "His extraliterary concerns include wildflowers and other flora, stories and speech patterns of Southern mountain people, jazz, classical music, baseball, and on and on. He is a wit, gentleman, bon vivant, hiker, raconteur, and discoverer of scores, if not hundreds, of artists and craftsmen of this and other centuries, minor but oftentimes brilliant people whom time and fashion have obscured... He is a unique man, one to whom everything is interesting; i.e., I cannot imagine him ever being bored by anything that is not fake."

STL #72: Shut partly in

On Larry Eigner's "Open"

Even though I know very little about Larry Eigner's life, there is one biographical fact that can't be escaped when reading his work. As he puts it in his biographical note in the NAP, "I'm a 'shut-in,' partly." What this means, to snip from Wikipedia, is "Eigner suffered from severe Cerebral palsy among other physical disabilities, and his parents believed that he was incapable of language until he taught himself to use a typewriter in his teens. The physical act of writing took more effort for him, and the physicality of each line is something that Silliman has remarked on repeatedly on his widely read poetry weblog." Now, there's some kind of New Critical 'heresy' in reading poetry through the facts of the author's life, but that in Eigner's case how can you not? (By the reading rules I've set up, his biographical note, beginning with the specifics of the institutions he was born into (the hospital in Lynn, MA) and schooled in (correspondence course with the U of Chicago) and describes him as a "shut in, partly" is admissible as 'text.' ) The "partly" modification is fascinating, since the rest of his note describes how he "bumped into Cid Corman reading Yeats, on the radio... from Boston." The part shut-in "bumped into" Corman "on the radio." The ensuing correspondence continued and one gathers supplanted his University education, converting him from a "non-declamatory way of reciting" and was the means by which he "got introduced to things." The last phrase of the biographical note is "the ice broke considerably," which I think means not only the friendship of Eigner and Corman, but Eigner's seclusion. He entered into the Black Mountain 'company' of poetry and continued as an elder statesmen for Silliman's cohort of Language poets. Through poetry, he was in the world, though physically he was largely shut out of it.

There is a poetry interview site that has been dormant for a while called "Here Comes Everybody" that asked an array of poets the same 10 questions. The tenth question always seemed strained to me, but it is provocative in thinking about Eigner: "What is the relationship between the text and the body in your writing?" A full answer to that question on behalf of Einger might be contentious and theory-laden, and would have to respond to his later work, which is dominated by concrete nouns and largely devoid of conventional syntax. This earlier work is more conventional, but still indicates a physical relation to the world found nowhere else I know in poetry. The obvious marker of the relation of language to body is the word "I," a word manipulated in a fascinating way in "Open." The poem begin in the lyric standard Romantic sublime: "They [flowers] nod at me and I at stems." As in the Romantics, nature seems to mirror the psychological interior, "me," as "I" fully engages in a relation to nature, but not all is as it seems. After two more uses of "I" which demonstrate imaginative engagement with nature ("I flower myself" and "As, I pass on the air"), the personal pronoun morphs into the lower case "i," a letter which stands for an imaginary number. This marker appears four times in the poem, replacing the mask of "I" with "As i, pause / As i dream" and finally "o i walk i walk." The "pause" not only sonically mirrors the "pass" of the preceding line but marks a literal pause during which the Romantic I becomes an imaginative 'i' cognizant of and bound by reality. The only other time the upper-case I intercedes is between "i dream" and "i walk": "I have been on all sides / my face and my back." There is an i that dreams and walks, and there is an I constrained by the limitations of his body and by the conventions of language.


To read: areas lights heights, Writings 1954-1989

Thursday, June 19, 2008

STL #71: Paul Carroll's "Father"

Paul Carrol is the first poet in the NAP collection about whom I had no previous knowledge. I had never read anything else by him and am quite sure I'd never even heard of him. He must have had some direct connection to Black Mountain or the friendship of one of its members, because "Father" might as well be a Beat poem as a Projectivist one. It's an enumerative, troubled-elegiac, image-strewn memory poem about a father's funeral. I find some sociological interest in it as a treatise on immigrant power in the U.S.. Carroll's biographical note mentions the financial success of his Irish immigrant father, and this poem alludes to how he "transform[ed]/that old cow pasture Hyde Park/into [his] own oyster" and how he earned "his millions by himself" and coming to the position where he could "quarrel with congressmen from Washington about the New Deal bank acts./Or call Mayor Kelly crooked to his face." There's nothing particularly bad about this poem, though the language is a little stale: "the raw October rain/ rasped against our limousine/guiding the creeping cars back into Chicago." In all honesty, that sounds like something I might have written in my early 20s: romantic strum and drang, heavily worked consonance and subtler assonance, neither particularly meaningful. There is one image that does pop out as intriguing in context. After getting a haircut in preparation for the funeral, the penniless Carroll thinks of "that old snapshot of Picasso/& his woman Dora Maar" which belonged to the elder Carroll (implying he knew Picasso?) It is an image of age and the remembered vigor that preceded it: "Picasso bald & 60. But both/in exaltation, emerging/with incredible sexual dignity/ from the waters of the Golfe Juan." It's a very lively image partitioned by space and time from the dour occasion of the poem. Note that the sound in this image is much more subtly wrought: the short [a] of 'bald,' "exaltation," and "waters" thread through, an [r] rolls gently through "emerging," incredible," and "waters." The sound is more secure and dignified than the description of the emotionally frenzied funeral scenes.

STL #70: Robert Creeley

I haven't done the homework, but I suspect that a lexicon of Robert Creeley's poems would be surprisingly small in comparison the the girth of the two chunky volumes that comprise his Collected Poems. Creeley gravitates to a handful of small, seemingly innocuous words, words like "this" (he has several poems bearing that title), and his poems and conversation returned often to a set of abstract nouns like "company," "circumstance," and, most oddly, "etc."

Out of this modest lexicon, Creeley built a body of work that seemingly rejects the weight of lyric tradition yet fully embraces its history of craft, of the well-wrought urn. Creeley saw himself as part of a company with his fellow Black Mountaineers working in the open field. Yet reading his prose statements, one doesn't find antagonism toward the other side of the 'poetry war' of which which the NAP was a major front. While he notes that "a division of method appears between those who make use of traditional forms, either for discipline or solution, and those who, as Olson, go "By ear... " he does in this passage note good reasons for using traditional forms. Tradition continues in his company; it is "an aspect of what anyone is now thinking, --not what someone once thought. We make with what we have..." The difference between his company and those who use traditional forms is described in this passage: "They [the traditionalists] argue the poem as a means of recognition, a signboard as it were, not in itself a structure of 'recognition' or--better--cognition itself. Some, then, would not only not hear what Olson was saying, but would even deny, I think, the relevance of his concerns. The great preoccupations with symbology and the levels of image in poetry insisted upon by contemporary criticism has also meant a further bias for this not-hearing, since Olson's emphasis was put upon prosody, not interpretation." Olson and Creeley's emphasis is on prosody, perhaps the strongest tradition in poetry that there is.

For this company, prosody is what Pound said: "the articulation of the total sound of the poem." Creeley uses the surprisingly traditional method of rhyme over and again. In this selection, 11 of his 14 poems use some sort of end rhyme, including slant rhyme and irregular patterns. The question I want to turn to now is simply "why?" To limit my investigation I'm concentrating on the poem "The Warning," though I will also open myself up to the more traditional realm of prosody, meter, to better graph the "total sound of the poem."

Since I'll be discussing the poem in detail, here it is in its entirety:

The Warning

For love – I would
split open your head and put
a candle in
behind the eyes.

Love is dead in us
if we forget
the virtues of an amulet
and quick surprise.

There it is: eight lines, 32 words not including the title. The dominant meter is iambic dimeter, but expressively varied--the shocking second line starts with a decisive dactyl and grows an extra foot. The seventh line complicates the poem and is also longer, though a smooth iambic tetrameter. The seventh line lets out some hidden context before the eighth line pulls it quickly back. The final rhyme, reaching back to the last line of the first stanza, is the most pronounced rhyme, but looking back you see it is not the only rhyme. While the first stanza is unrhymed (a, b, c, d), the fifth line slightly echoes the fourth (eyes/us) and the sixth and seventh don't only rhyme with one another but pick up "put" from the second. Broadening the definition of rhyme, the rhyme scheme of the poem might be seen as (abcd d'b'b'd), though more conservatively as (abcd effd). Beyond rhyme, the poem is tightly knit together by recurring sounds in these unassuming words: l and d sounds in the first three lines, n sounds in lines 2-5, z sounds in lines 3-4 and 6-7, and r sounds in the last three lines. Particularly impressive is the n, d, l pattern in the first stanza, and how all three sounds cluster around the mysterious "candle" in the skull. Finally, its worth noting that almost every word is closed--begins and ends with a consonant. You might say this sound pattern is a guarded, close-mouthed one.

After the gruesome imagery of the first stanza, the second stanza twists away ending with an in-itself-surprising "eyes"/"surprise" rhyme. The second stanza is in itself a "surprise" that as with a lot of Creeley poems I can't quite resolve. The most unusual word in the poem is perhaps "amulet." Not an uncommon word except when compared to the rest of the word in this poem, amulet is taken up in its shamanic sense as a charm against evil. But that must be read ironically--in the name of love, I will kill you to make a charm to protect love? But what is the "quick surprise" of the last line? Is it a new love? As I recall, the book this eventually appeared in, For Love, is largely concerned with the disintegration of a marriage and specifically the complications of infidelity. That may sound like the kind of confessionalist crap that was starting to be churned out at the time, but note that "The Warning" doesn't describe anything at all, but enacts a state of mind.

To (re)read: For Love, Words, Pieces. A Quick Graph.

Monday, June 9, 2008

STL #69: Paul Blackburn

Paul Blackburn is a poet I've heard of, and I've read some of his poems in, I think, the Origin anthology. But I don't know his work well at all. He is a hanger-on at the edge of biographies I've read, most recently turning up pretty devotedly in the second half of the Zuk bio. Judging from the gathering in NAP, Blackburn writes in two modes: short wry jokes in contemporary urban (usually) settings ("The Continuity, "The Assistance, "The Problem," "The Once Over," "The Encounter"), and longer poems drawing on medieval traditions ("Night Song for Two Mystics," "Sirventes"). Though my tastes generally run to the former, I'm drawn by "Night Song for Two Mystics." The two mystics are W.B. Yeats and "Llull," who Wikipedia suggests is Ramon Llull (1232-1315), also known as Raymond Lully. Llull was a scholar of astonishing breadth, writing on theology, mathematics and logic (his work forecasts modern information science) and the author of the first prose narrative in Catalan (and arguably the first European novel.) He lobbied for the study of Hebrew and Arabic in the universities, and sought the conversion of Muslims through his system of logical argument. Renowned in this time, the man Duns Scotus nicknamed "Dr. Illuminatus" (there's a comic book name for you!) was parodied by Swift and condemned by Popes until 1858. Though I've seen the name "Raymond Lully" here and there, I think it's safe to say he isn't now widely known.

The Llull that Blackburn writes about is both a mystic and a philosopher of love. There's a longish quotation in the first half of the poem which describes "the light of the beloved's room" illuminating (this key term for Dr. Illumunatis is stretched out over a line by Blackburn: "t o i l l u m i n a t e") the lover's room. "[T]hen/all the shadows are thrown back,/then he is filled and surfilled/with his peculiar pleasures/the heavy thoughts, the languors." The light of the beloved overtakes and inhabits every corner of the lover's room and mind. He changes his life and his habits for the beloved, but she "remains forever/far enough removed/and in a high place/ as to be easily seen from a distance." I'm not sure of the source of this quotation, but in the end this love story seems to transform into a theological parable.

The second half of the poem questions the other mystic, Yeats, on what lesson we might learn from Llull, from the distant perspective of the twentieth century. The second half starts with two quesions, one rhetorical "you see where we stand?" and one critical "must it always lead to gods?" In other words, must earthly love be divinely transformed to be worthwhile? Is Llull still meaningful in an age that has outstripped his philosophy? Llull is gone and nearly forgotten: "The man's shadow dissolves in shadows./Most men go down in obliteration/with the homeliest of remembrances." Blackburn opens a parenthesis on the seven deadly sins, asking what are the positive virtues with as much force, and then opens another suggestive parenthesis ("down, sailor/blow the man/c o i l e d d o w n t h e r e") that at once recalls the spacing of "illuminate" on the previous page and also invokes the serpent "in the dark pools of the mind." The poem ends with a classically ambivalent take on mortality: "Dust, Yeats, all dust,/tho Llull remain a lover." It's not overreaching to say that the mysticism of Yeats and Llull is transient and trendy, but love (or really their lyricism that conveys it) is what will endure.

I may have been attracted to writing about this poem simply to find out who Llull was. Most of the poetry I read is densely allusive, a quality that leads people to the conclusion that the poetry is difficult, or 'hard.' The assumption, erroneous I am sure, is that if you don't know who Llull is, then you don't know what the poet is talking about (or plug in other examples from Eliot, Pound, etc.). Blackburn doesn't offer in any cribs of notes, yet read with attention the poem yields up a great deal of intellectual pleasure. The cited Llull is really all the Lllull you need--such was Pound's argument about The Cantos. ("It's all there.") The minimal background I dug up on Llull revealed the illumination joke, and I'm sure further acquaintance with his work might deepen my understanding, but these two night mystics have been brought into the field of the poem so that we might learn from them and converse with them, as the poet himself does. They aren't there to make us feel deficient or confuse us. The "hard" poetry I like is not elitist; quite the opposite I think. A poem like this embraces seven centuries, and welcomes any reader who cares to stop in.

To read: Journals, praised in Sorrentino's excellent essay on Blackburn in Something Said. Also Proensa: An Anthology of Troubadour Poetry.

STL #68: "Beyond whatever ends"

On Denise Levertov

In the run-up to the this new "Test of Poetry," I think I said Denise Levertov did not have a statement on poetics included in the NAP. That is incorrect. I made the mistake because the order of the poetics section does not quite follow the order as the poetry roster. Robert Creeley jumps the line from fifth in the poetry section (based on his age) to third in the poetics section (based, probably, on his stronger identification with Black Mountain.)* I'm glad Levertov's statement is there, because it brings up her enticing idea of organic form: "I believe every space and comma is a living part of the poem and has its function, just as every muscle and pore of the body has its function. And the way the lines are broken is a functioning part essential to the poem's life." She also believes that "content determines form, and yet that content is only in form. Like everything living, it is a mystery." In these few lines we can see the strong intellectual identification with the other Black Mountaineers, especially Duncan and Creeley who she considers the "chief poets among [her] contemporaries."

With her thoughts on organic form in mind, "Beyond the End" reads as an ethical defense of how that form emerges in free verse. It begins "In 'nature' there's no choice --" which seems to argue against the 'organicism' of free verse. Free verse offers infinite choice, so how can it be called organic, in the sense of 'natural'? If "flowers/swing their heads in the wind, [and] sun & moon/are as they are," then why should the poet presume not to similarly confine verse to the boxes of sonnets "as they are"? The answer will rely on those inverted commas around "nature" that I will work my way back to. While "nature" operates without "choice," "we seem / almost to have it." Choice is Olsonian "energy: a spider's thread: not to / 'go on living' but to quicken, to activate: extend:" The energy is creative, one that reaches out to contribute to ("quicken" or "activate" as opposed to simply represent) that which exists. 'That which exists' surely must be nature-- a spider web as much as "the girls crowding the stores." Although this creative energy exists in and affects "nature," "[i]t has no grace like that of/the grass." It is "barely/a constant" like other natural forces. It does not only manifests in work, although "every damn / craftsman has it while he's working / but it's not / a question of work: some shine with it, in repose." Rather it is a Stevensian "will to respond"--again, not to represent--that shapes poetry. The poet, in a sincere response to "nature," creates further "nature" that is "beyond the end/beyond whatever ends: to begin, to be, to defy."

This creative defiance, in a poetics descending from Pound to Zukofsky to Olson, is defined in by poetic line. The line, the organic unit of breath in the Black Mountain/Projectivist program, is often linked to the poet's integrity or sincerity. Levertov specifies the poet's decision of the line break to be essential to craft. I touched on line breaks when discussing Olson, and indeed I'm always fascinated by line breaks in both open and closed forms. But as interesting in open forms is lineation itself. The poem has stanzas of 6, 6, 4, 6, and ends either with one of 11 or probably two of 7 and 4 (there's a page break that confuses the issue.) I could hit my prosody handbooks to come up with closed forms with 6-4 line patterns, but it's the variation-- the shift from 6-6-4 to 6-7-4, that is most important. The 7-line stanza, concerned with craft, incorporates the Stevens quotation which overflows into the next stanza, the only stanzaic enjambment of the poem. This construction echoes the pushing "beyond the end" of the poem's argument.

At this stage in her writing career, Levertov that the "social function" of poetry, if it has one at all, "is to awaken sleepers by means other than shock." (Her Vietnam-era poetry might suggest she reconsidered this position.) Perceiving the craft in this poem and meditating on its significance could be just such an awakening. There's a small lexicon for the awakened mind in the second and the final stanzas. The two triads map onto one another nicely: quicken=to begin, activate=to be, extend=to defy.


To read: the Poems 1960-1967 I've had on the shelf for a dozen years.



*Levertov and Creeley are the only poets in the NAP I ever met. ("Met" is an exagerration; I was in the same room as Levertov once and Creeley twice.) Some time later than this writing, Levertov became a Northwesterner, writing at least a few poems about Mount Rainier. I went to a poetry reading of hers sometime in the early 90's. She was a dignified kindly presence, with a slight British accent remaining and, I remember, a slight lisp.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

STL #67: Melees and Mosaics

On Robert Duncan's "Poem beginning with a line by Pindar"

"There is natural mystery in poetry. We do not understand all that we render up to understanding."

Duncan writes that a poem "is an occult document" subject to "x-rays and vivisection." In this sense, "occult" means that a poem resists and it yields, in Stevens's sense that it resists the intelligence almost successfully. This happens because the poem is a "field" into which the poet brings his or her materials. In the case of his long, famous "Poem beginning with a line by Pindar," the materials are not only the Roman poet's Third Pythian Ode, but the myth of Pysche and Cupid (as represented by Goya), a poetic lineage from Whitman to Williams and Pound, and American Presidential history.

The poem is in four parts: the first begins with a mishmash of Pindar, the beautiful but nonsensical "The light foot hears you and the brightness begins," quickly clarified as "god steps at the margins of thought." In some ways, this poem provides evidence of the numinous: a foot cannot hear in any way we understand, but the lingering occult presence brings with it luminosity. Most of this first section describes Goya's painting of Pysche and Cupid, the troubled story of a god in love with a human. The second section transitions from myth to the imperfect present, using the strokes of President Eisenhower and William Carlos Williams to represent the rupture of poetry from public policy (a public poetry being possible from before Pindar to Whitman). The stroke victims' language is a distorted, mis-signifying stutter: "The present dented of the U/nighted stayd. States. The heavy clod?/Cloud. Invades the brain." At this point in history, "The smokes of continual ravage/obscure the flame." A catalogue of presidents is a list of graceless "idiots fumbling at the bride's door." In the third section, dedicated to Charles Olson, we see Ezra Pound, an inspiration for such a jeremiad against "liars in public places." Pound as Olson came to know him at St. Elizabeths is the broken "old man at Pisa," though, unlike WCW, his language is untouched and stronger than ever, even if he a "A man upon whom the sun has gone down." Pound transforms into a mythic figure, "the hero who struggles east/widdershins to free the dawn." He is against the grain of the American myth, in which "West/from east men push." The fourth section is a diffuse return to the misreading of Pindar, punctuated by the footfall of a "boundary walker," his "foot informed/by the weight of all things." This walker traverses a wilderness and dissolves into a ring of children dancing. Near the end of the poem, Duncan represents its genesis: "the information flows/ that is yearning. A line of Pindar moves/ from the area of my lamp/ toward morning." The poem ends with the children dancing "In the dawn that is nowhere... clockwise and counterclockwise turning."

In this final section, Duncan comments on his line from Pindar in a prose paragraph aside that also describes the poem: Pindar's art "was not a statue but a mosaic, an accumulation of metaphor." It is an inspiration for Duncan's poetics of the field. He, like Olson and others in NAP is not pursuing a well-wrought urn, but initiating a sometimes occult process, or creating a field where thinking and music can occur. Found within his "Pages from a Notebook" is a statement enclosed in quotation marks but not attributed: "I do not seek a synthesis but a melee." This uncontrolled "melee" is as apt a description of field poetics as the accumulating mosaic. It is a poetics of action and of presence--poems are not objects for readers to enjoy but fields of participation. They are energy transfers (Olson's) or "passionate dispersions" of magic (Duncan).

While working through this poem, I have begun to identify with Duncan the same way I identify with Olson. Personally, politically they are far apart, and they have different intellectual interests too. But each seems on first blush a little ludicrous. They have large ambitions that seem to have been accomplished by others in styles that seem dated. But I'd encourage any one interested enough to have read this far to give both consideration. Though I've read and liked his Opening of the Field, studying "Pindar" at length is driving me to further study of his work.

Recommended: The Opening of the Field
To Read: Lisa Jarnot's bio (forthcoming), Bending the Bow, Roots and Branches, Selected Prose

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