Monday, April 18, 2005

A little sick today: pizza and leftover red wine last night produced acidity and nausea that kept me up a large chunk of the night. And here I am in the Bookery basement, far from the light and air that characterize Ithaca's seemingly unprecendented 8-day run of flawless weather. But I have the new Michael Palmer bok Company of Moths to keep me company between customers. His typically Roman beauty seems stained by a new voluptuousness, coupled to a sly sense of humor that's been emerging slowly since the last book. Here's a poem chosen at random from the title section:
Untitled (Three Days)

Yes, I changed the light bulb myself,
so no more jokes about poets and light bulbs,

or poets and light,
no more combing the unconscious

for its Corybantic folds, its flows,
and no more talk of "the bitter wind."

It will do what it must
to summon and confound

all at once
and ravel the wings of moths at dusk.

(Did we not, that same night,
carve the voice into parts

and number them one, then one plus one,
and so on?) Tea from the leaves of mint,

the tiny sisal boats, adrift
in shifting currents of air

as if elegy were endless.
Three days, one light bulb, now this.
There's no one else writing I'm aware of so committed to the old-fashioned modernist adventure within the bounds of a limpidity that reminds me of H.D. the rare unraging poems of Pound, and inevitably, Wallace Stevens. Palmer's a deadly serious aesthete—worldly in the word's older sense—just like Stevens, but he's distinguished by a dedication to the wry question rather than the pseudo-philosophical proposition, even when he's playing off their shared tendency for the intonations of high oratory (one poem, "Jackal and Falcon," begins with the line, "O Geraldo Deniz, tell me, if you know"). I owe Palmer a great deal, "oweing" being something ongoing like a process. And hey, we've even both written poems about moths. Also, a word on book design: reliably ugly New Directions has made a major leap forward with this latest: there's a gorgeous abstract art piece rendered in full yet muted colors on the shining black cover. I say, way to go.

1 comment:

Arlee Christian said...

That's awesome to hear about the new book. Thanks.

Apologies for not dropping a note sooner. I was away for most of Sept-Jan in San Antonio, TX for my job & training. And still trying to 'frame' my blog in some way that can one day engage readers as your blog does.

Anyhow, I wanted to alert you to my blog entry for today. It has a link to Barrett Watten's review of _The Politics of Time: Modernity and Avant-Garde_ by Peter Osborne. I know this piece, and the other one on Asbery are right up your alley.

It is only available to read in full until 25 April. (thru Highbeam Research's new blog-sharer). Of course, you probably already get this service for your dissertation work. If not, let me know if you want me to look up any articles.

But my subscription runs out on 15 May, and I don't think I can plunk down the $96.00 for renewal.

Your blog is of great service. Thanks.

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