Friday, October 16, 2009

After Form Fails

That's one of my own lines. From an untitled (they're all untitled) severance song:
After form fails a furling, reports dying

away, look away. The panicle sprouts from the clavicle,

from spinal grimace, ribs fasicled by the itch of a glance
that struts the struck organ feeling out a musty

boom, branching beneath a witch’s hands,
stone melody, capillary cracks reach the trunk,
sink rootward, birth a sneer—burnt leaves

swirling, surling in a downstreamed capacity
for the history of planks, knit brows, wrung
fingers letting loose the bloody handkerchief

to be found. And after all this force evolution
still has its job to do, mentoring the soil or honoring

the split sky, though irradiated, defining a pair of eyes

as the interrupted light they bridge by raising.
Very late revelation or discovery that what these poems are about, if they're about anything other than what each is individually about (love, war, rage, impotence), is form. The form of the sonnet, which each poem evokes by being fourteen lines long; and form's capacity or incapacity to deal with, adapt, respond adequately to the postmodern life of their author, circa 2001 - 2008, aka The Bush Years. The Odyssey frame I tried building around the poems was a crude attempt at narrativizing what's already implicit in the poems' struggles with the sonnet form: form as a refuge as necessary as it is corrupt and imperfect.

A solace for pained thought that it insulates, poetic form is like the blood-brain barrier that protects the brain from infection but also severs it from the chaotic life of the body, which is "out there" while the brain hunkers down in its carapace. Attempts to break that barrier are suicidal: the results are encephalitis (swelled head), epilepsy (ecstasy), MS (short circuit), and Alzheimer's (disappearance).

Form attacks form. In the rupture, the space between, fleeting possibilities of action--of the subject--might appear. Or else the subject might be, like a replicant fleeing its incept date, dead before it leaves the table.

Body questions body: uneasy in possession of and by it, these poems like ungainly dancers (like Berryman's dancer at Henry's bier, let some thing fall out well) collide limbs, torsos, reach up searchingly, contract into defensive crouches, clownlike, stumbling, or else self-consciously graceful, gracile, pursued by the lagging spotlight of the reader's attention between densities of logo-, melo-, phanopoeia.

The sonnet is dead; long live the death of the sonnet.

After form fails, more form.

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