Friday, July 07, 2006

A sonnet from Ed Roberson's latest, City Eclogue, part of the Atelos project, proves that social formalism is hardly incompatible with lyric:

Urban Nature

Neither New Hampshire nor Midwestern farm,
nor the summer home in some Hamptons garden
thing, not that Nature not a satori
-al leisure come to terms peel by peel, not that core
whiff of beauty as the spirit. Just a street
pocket park, clean of any smells, simple quiet—
simple quiet not the same as no birds sing,
definitely not the dead of no birds sing:
The bus stop posture in the interval
of nothing coming, a not quite here running
sound underground, sidewalk's grate vibrationless
in open voice, sweet berries ripen in the street
hawk's kiosks. The orange is being flown in
this very moment picked of its origin.
What I've seen of Roberson's work so far has a very clean, straightforward feel, inviting complexity and political dimension through subtle formal gestures, like the colon at the end of the octet that introduces an invisible ambivalent turn toward a celebration of what is laced with melancholy over what has not yet come to pass ("the interval / of nothing coming"). The nostalgia of eclogue has a cutting edge here ("nostalgia" meaning literally the pain of return), containing the kernel of a revolutionary wish. But there's also pleasure in the detail and in the memory of/wish for nature that persists in this urban "pocket park": a blade of grass with a subway handy.

Thomas Fink has a detailed review of the book you can read at galatea resurrects #2; you can also read my short review of Shanna Compton's Down Spooky, reprinted from CutBank.

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