Tuesday, April 7, 2009

STL #82: SF Omnibus

For the first time in a month, I've returned to the green pastures of STL. I was ready to dispense with the remaining SF poets, with the strong memory in mind of having completed a three part critique of Lew Welch, Richard Duerden, and Philip Lamantia and ready to write up notes on Bruce Boyd, Kirby Doyle, and Ebbe Borregaard. Much to my surprise, I find my memory has been playing tricks on me again, since all I had on the former three was as follows:

Lew Welch is the apocryphal author of the perfect American poem "Raid kills bugs dead." His "Chicago Poem" is a hate song to the city of broad shoulders.

Duerden's "Musica No. 3" is a topologically engaging poem about a sea cave. I had to draw a sketch, but I think I understand it.

Lamantia seems to have thought he moved beyond a juvenile surrealism, but I'm not so sure. There's a poem called "Terror Conduction" with lots of words in ALL CAPS. I can't bear to go on.

But come to think of it, I don't have too much more to say (though I do like that Welch poem, especially the resolution where he decides "I'm just/going to walk away from it. Maybe/ A small part of it will die if I'm not around/feeding it anymore."). And since I'm so far behind, I've decided to deal with the last three in similarly brief fashion.

Bruce Boyd's "Venice Recalled" reads like a Projectivist (Black Mountain) poetics. He speaks of a company of poets whose speech is "only open & discursive." This company, "we who would live openly," exists at and as "the natural peripheries" of language. That credo expresses the outsider tendency (but not the self-importance) that unifies the scenes around which this book is organized (though transcends).

If Boyd is a Projectivist ex officio (am I using that correctly?), Kirby Doyle is a Beat undercover. He has the Corso reform school pedigree and his poem "Strange" has a "Howl"-esque construction of long thought-breath lines knit together with a repeated "or" beginning each line. It's a neat little period piece based on how the world is "groping about" through a dozen different similes.

Borregaard seems famous for being obscure. He has a cool name to be sure, which might in some way way bear a connection to his penchant for obscure words. The poem "Some Stories of the Beauty Wapiti" contains a fistful unusual words, from "wapiti" (a large deer) to "oleo" (margarine), "wastrel" (a dissolute), "vatrix" (unknown), "hyades" (a star cluster), and "nedda" (an Italian woman's name). His tendencies in the poems here seem to point toward a Rothenbergian ethno-poetics, which might be my next anthology test.

So if there's a lesson here, it's that categories enforced by the anthology were loose to start with and, as Allen admits, became "obviously irrelevant." But next week I'll move into a category that is still used, if not relevant: the Beats. I hope to write more regularly over the summer months, dealing with Kerouac, Ginsberg, Corso, and Orvlosky quickly before diving right into the New York poets.

further reading: Of these six, I'm most likely to seek out more Welch: Ring of Bone (collected) and How I Work as a Poet (essays).