Thursday, February 23, 2006

Still adjusting to having comments. I think I will, for now, mostly refrain from intervening in that space: it's for you, the reader. If someone says something I feel especially moved to comment on, I'll do a fresh post about it.

This shrine-bombing in Samarra may be the straw that breaks the camel's back, I fear—the de facto civil war in Iraq has become unignorable as such. Is it my imagination, or is the general stance of the West toward Muslim rage—first the Danish cartoon, now this—one of bafflement and perplexity? As if "Why do they hate us" had morphed into, "Why do they hate?" I'm not much of a postcolonial theorist, but are we simply witnessing what happens when a subaltern seizes some power for itself? But it's distressing, to say the least, that the anti-imperialist banner has fallen into the hands of fanatics whose own ambitions seem to be equally imperial. Are the moderates, in whatever scenario, here and there (the "silent majority" was despairingly invoked by pro-choice advocates in South Dakota yesterday) by definition doomed to being weaker than the extremes? What good is a silent majority if it remains silent?

"Poetry is not important. That's why it matters." Reading Aaron Shurin's campy, sad, and altogether ravishing Involuntary Lyrics, a book of "sonnets" that redeploys the end words of Shakespeare's sonnets but in such a way so that they don't rhyme—intended to, as Shurin says in a note, "unring the sonnet." I've read a little Shurin before but this the first time I've seen him work in verse instead of prose, and I like it a lot. Some of the poems have very short lines, at times just one (Shakespeare's) word; others spill over indents. They're pretty sexy too—I often envy the frank eroticism of gay poets, it seems a lot harder for us straight boys to be sexy without lapsing into creepiness or cliche. But it's the musicality and compression, usually with a very simple vocabulary, that I find most seductive. Here's "CL":
rain rain exceeds
temper for (formerly) fair May might
scream "no more!"
under sway
of wet wet how hate
no sun in sight
and no you! a bore
limpy day
hollow state
shell ill-
fitting oh hear me
stumble, Love, deeds
deeds not words the
missing skill
And here's Shakespeare's Sonnet 150, just to give you an idea:
O, from what power hast thou this powerful might
With insufficiency my heart to sway?
To make me give the lie to my true sight,
And swear that brightness doth not grace the day?
Whence hast thou this becoming of things ill,
That in the very refuse of thy deeds
There is such strength and warrantize of skill
That, in my mind, thy worst all best exceeds?
Who taught thee how to make me love thee more
The more I hear and see just cause of hate?
O, though I love what others do abhor,
With others thou shouldst not abhor my state:
If thy unworthiness raised love in me,
More worthy I to be beloved of thee.
Obviously Shurin takes some liberties—pretty sure Shakespeare never used "the" as an end word. Anyways, considerable pleasure here, "a valentine to desire" as D.A. Powell blurbs on the back.

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