Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Previously I've only really known about Daniel Bouchard through his excellent magazine The Poker. Tonight at the Bookery I'm reading his first book, Diminutive Revolutions, and it's thrilling. I find myself thinking of Jennifer Moxley, who has a blurb for the book on the Subpress site: although far less syntactically dense, I get the same feeling of being urgently addressed by a peer confronting the present paideuma with bare hands and open mind. "I'm trying to think / not narrate— / I'll tell you about it later" ("Space within These Lines Not Dedicated"): those lines elegantly sum up what feels most necessary to the poetry I read right now. But though I'm fascinated by a largely conceptual poetry, my affection is more readily won by poems with textured surfaces: in Bouchard's case, I'm most struck by his use of natural imagery, as in the long poem that opens the book, a pastoral elegy (I know I'm obsessed but honestly, that's what it is), "Wrackline." That poem paratactically follows Bouchard on his rounds as a garbage collector through a landscape of waste (of land, of natural resources, of human life) and abundance. It's hard to excerpt, but here's a little taste:
Lilac bushes border the lots
of neatly trimmed lawns. Green water
at low tide, the flats at Brewster.
American goldfinch trio flies
at truck noise. Route 6, also
"Grand Army of the Republic Highway"
is quiet and empty at sunrise. A bicylcist
heaed north, preceded by a small car
acting as windbreak in narrow lane
right of the white line.
Mayflower, starflower,
the vulnerable broom crowberry.
Ed was killed in a car wreck,
thrown from the passenger seat.
I love the moment in the poem—it reminds me of the present-tense pastoral interruptions to Pound's litany of memory in the Pisan Cantos—when the roughly three- to four-beat lines are broken up by white space signifying the sea and words describing that sea. It's a gesture toward the sublime that stays thisworldly, which seems eminently consistent with Bouchard's ethos. There's also humor in the book, a good deal of intertextuality with predecessors and contemporaries (you have to love the first line of the poem "Pax": "I make a pact with you, Ron Silliman"), and a lived degree of political engagement that feels of a piece with the deceptively conversational form.

Bouchard seems like he would be a natural for my final chapter on contemporary pastoralists; I've just ordered his new book, Some Mountains Removed, and I'm excited to read that as well.

No comments:

Popular Posts