Also holding my attention tonight, though nothing I'll finish in a single session, is Eleni Sikelianos' The California Poem. I've only read the first few pages, but I'm struck by both the openness of the project (its willingness to enfold geography, geology, history, and politics) and its lyricism, which in its particularity and its shades of class consciousness reminds me of the other innovative poet of place I've been reading recently, C.D. Wright. Check this out:
It just goes on like that: wild brighting mustardincredible. The sheer receptivity of it is Whitmanesque, but for me the setting pushes Whitman into an encounter with Philip K. Dick, or at least Cesar Chavez: California, the dystopian paradise, the perpetual geographical future of "young men." I only lived there for two years but it fascinated meit was a gorgeous and terrible hallucination; I'd return in a heartbeat if I could afford to live there. In New York you feel at the center of your time; in California you are, like Max Headroom, twenty minutes into the future. Environmental devastation, social unrest, utopia: they'll happen there first. I've admired Sikelianos for a while but this is clearly her bid for greatness, if "greatness" still means anything. I hope it's widely read.
my trailer park's in the shady ambrosial arroyo of nothing native
stands of embryonic eucalyptic bluegums frilling on the ridge &
tractor dust like a dress for us
Everybody's halfcracked with halfteeth missing and ideas of almost-functioning
shipping & receiving depts. near the train tracks collide, hillsides
scrubbed in wild brighting mustard
unknown modes of road wind back the black hot gila monster tarmac beading up into ripped hills
I am NOT watching the inauguration. So there.