Sunday, March 27, 2005

Good morning, Seattle! Long flight and bumpy, too. Consoled myself with an absolute fistful of books:
- The first three essays from Perloff's Differentials: Poetry, Poetics, Pedagogy. She makes a useful distinction between the New Critical practice of "close reading," which tends to neglect the signifier in favor of thematics, and a "differential" practice. May have more to say about this later.

- More chunks of the Zukofsky issue of Chicago Review (they are very slow to update their website—it still shows the Dorn issue). Very stimulating essay on ethics as aesthetics, a topic near to my heart, by Susan Stewart. She's a smart cookie; I want to pick up her Poetry and the Fate of the Senses. Also some good reviews, including one of the newly released Zukofsky-WCW correspondence. I knew Williams was "earthy," but as it turns out he was practically a rapper when it comes to his obsession with sex and mad props. Is there a good biography of him available? Besides his own, I mean.

- The Douanier Rousseau quarter of Roger Shattuck's The Banquet Years. I've never had much patience for art criticism and tend to enjoy the biographical stuff more than the commentary on painting. But Shattuck is a lively and interesting writer; it also helps that the paintings he discusses are so familiar.

- Brenda Iijima's Around Sea. More pastoral, though she denies it at one point. Some breathtaking lyrical passages as the whole accumulates into a kind of word-picture that seems to be devoted to depicting what's at stake in our human relations given a recklessly imperiled environment. A hard book to summarzie.

- Jeff Clark's Music and Suicide. I really don't care for the first poem, "A Mantis and Chocolate," which in my initial flip-through had led me to conclude that this book is a serious falling off from The Little Door Slides Back, a book I love. But the book is undismissable when read at a sitting: yes, there are large tracts of self-indulgence, but there's also urgency and what I take to be a deliberately fucked-up euphony about many of the poems—a struggle with decadence encoded in the very language. The central poem/essay, "Shiva Hive," teeters on the edge between pretentiousness and profundity. What most impresses me is the eroticism and violence that's so close to the surface. He's auditioning pretty hard for the role of notre Baudelaire.
All right, Trevor and Richard are now up and wandering around the room and giving me shit about blogging, so it's time to go. Elliot Bay Books, maybe some tourist stuff (Pike Place Market, anyone?), then we have to go rent a car and head down to Portland. See you there!


Mark Scroggins said...

For WCW's life -- & if you're prepared to give up a good chunk of your own -- try Paul Mariani's *William Carlos Williams: A New World Naked*. More than you ever wanted to know.

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