Friday, January 28, 2005

Grood Younger Poets

This morning I wrote an irritable post about La Vendler and an Academy essay bashing Language poetry by one Richard Tayson. But this afternoon I feel that the only answer to give people either oblivious or hostile to great experimental writing is not more polemic, but the simple presentation of what's great and good.

Over the next few days I plan to present a number of contemporaries who I think of as major—whose work I continually return to for the news that I find there. All of them produce what I consider to be sufficiently complex representations of reality, both inner (consciousness) and outer (the social). All have affinities for the lyric, and I would hazard that all have idiosyncratic notions of ancestry (i.e., none are card-carrying members of any school). All have progressive political commitments that manifest in aesthetically interesting and indirect ways. They've all got serious chops as far as "craft" goes (I'd like you to hear the German Kraft here in the sense of "strength") and have very personal and particular relationships to one or more basic elements of poetic composition: the line, the rhyme, the sentence, etc. I believe all of them act in accordance with Stevens' major dicta: It Must Be Abstract; It Must Change; It Must Give Pleasure. Righty-ho. Here we go:

1) Jennifer Moxley. One of the most acute sensibilities in contemporary poetry. A ceaseless investigator of internal and external stimuli that can never be fully accounted for—the peculiarity of her diction seems to stem from the thinness of her skin. She has a prophet's righteous anger that her own pettiness and fears do not evade. She writes a mean public poem, but I think her unflinching examinations (better: productions) of intimacy are what really set her apart. Here's a poem from Imagination Verses:
Though Crowded

I am not thinking of you
always, in separation our time
is queer requirement, the
impossible revelation
of a moment alone, or the
pale counting of debts.
Alone in thought my mind
now falters, accomplishments
are my heavy buildings reached,
they mark the jeopardy
of savings, must I think
of everything as saved,
the daylight, all the world
of time I want you in shall
pass ungathered. Will you
insist for love my life
must make effective cahnges,
while throughout this
makeshift home the rooms
are filled with savings,
photographs and books
acquired as if my very life
on them depended.
Tonight I saw the moon
in the faint sky of Providence
and I was moved no deeper
for the distance. You must
know what you've done
to my ambition.
When I read Moxley, I always end up feeling implicated, like she's someone who knows the drift of my own mind's moves better than I do myself. It's the closest I've ever experienced to telepathy. I'm still mining both of her books (for a few months last year The Sense Record traveled with me everywhere I went) long after other poets I've read have passed through my hands with however much pleasure. Moxley haunts me. She has a lot to say.

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