"[N:]ew Southern poetry in which Field lets loose a Calamity Jane-like voice loaded with screwball humor"? Not really. This book is much better than t"[N:]ew Southern poetry in which Field lets loose a Calamity Jane-like voice loaded with screwball humor"? Not really. This book is much better than that. It is dark, disturbing, and, yes, funny, but in more of a knock-wood, cast-an-uneasy-glance-over-your-shoulder-in-the-graveyard kind of way. A flavor of modern Southern gothic....more
I was in the MFA program at the UW with Susan Parr, so some might consider my 5-star review a little biased. And I suppose I am favorably biased towarI was in the MFA program at the UW with Susan Parr, so some might consider my 5-star review a little biased. And I suppose I am favorably biased towards Susan's work, in part because she’s such a dear, but mostly because she a jaw-droppingly amazing poet. I fell in love with her poems from the moment I first encountered them, and that feeling hasn't changed.
The poems in Pacific Shooter are lively, quick, and whipsmart. They're sexy, saucy, and tongue-in-cheek; but also thoughtful, with moments that give pause. They’re surreal yet absolutely truthy. For example, here is the poet's "Lament" (one of my favorites):
If my legs became (boom) a flower—I’d have to dangle from its proud gate folds— a half-pillar of self, upside-down in my cone of ribs, my petal collar blue in the bee shadow.
I would be a furious flower.
Susan Parr delights in language, and the breadth and inventiveness of her vocabulary is dizzying. She gives us “junky blurt”, “bald laryngal fog”, “infowolves”, “the logomotive / yo-yo”, “all minched and sampled”…I could go on & on. One of the happy consequences of personally knowing Susan is that I can hear her voice in my head as I read the poems on the page. If you ever have the chance to hear her read, do yourself a big favor and make sure you do. She’s as sprightly/spritely a reader as she is a writer. I couldn’t be happier that this book is in the world. ...more
The subtitle of Sarah Arvio’s Sono (meaning "sound") is "cantos", which is appropriate enough, given that the poems contained within read very much liThe subtitle of Sarah Arvio’s Sono (meaning "sound") is "cantos", which is appropriate enough, given that the poems contained within read very much like songs: they are highly musical and filled with repetition (or call it refrain). About a third of the way through the book, I briefly wondered if I would tire of the relentless rhyme and word play, especially given that all of the poems are remarkably consistent in structure, tone, and length. I'm happy to report that I enjoyed every last one of them. The poems were written during an extended stay in Rome, and many of them take the ancient city as a subject or setting, but not in any predictable way you'd imagine. Rome is merely the launching point for the poet's more inward-directed, philosophical eye. Arvio's delight in language is contagious, and her whipsmart, assonant riffing is breathtaking. She nods to several language-loving greats, presumably her influences, including:
Sylvia Plath (from "Colosseum")
Here was my game, the name of my sin, for I never threw men to the lions or rose from my lair or ate men like air…
Elizabeth Bishop (from "Graffito")
…here where the graph may be the holy grail. Let's grapple with the beasts—that is, the bears— let them tear us—write it!—from limb to limb.
and Wallace Stevens (from "Pantheon")
…or read my palm and tell me what you see: I see a palm at the end of my mind, swaying like an arm, waving like a hand…
Most of all, Arvio's work reminds me of Heather McHugh's, for her intense word play, attention to etymology, her speaker's self-awareness and general bawdiness:
But I was slim bodied and full-breasted
and tired of my island, my eye, my land, and no, I didn’t need a fallacy! And no more pathos! (It was pathetic.)
I needed a phallus—but not on me— and not in the elements or heavens. A flash in the flesh and not in the pan!
And, from "Sine Qua Non":
Quo vadis, as history often asked; the answer, always, was I'm going back, looking for a goose, a lamb or a duck,
a croon or a cluck, a quid for my quo. This was quackery, I mean a bad fix, dumb luck, my destiny or a dumb fuck,
many beautiful fucks, quote me on this, meaning fucking you again and again and being fucked by you, which was the same.
I borrowed this book from the UW library, but this is one volume that I'm going to end up buying for keeps. These are poems that I wish I’d written myself. In the end, I think Sarah Arvio provides the best perspective on her own poems in "Hope":
…turning toward the sun, turning toward the sound —my warp of the world, my harp of the heart—
sounding like myself, as I always sound, snappy and stylish and too sonorous, a little savage and a little sweet.
I recently read a poem by Edith Sitwell on Poetry Daily and was surprised & charmed by her facile use of language & music. I love the word glyI recently read a poem by Edith Sitwell on Poetry Daily and was surprised & charmed by her facile use of language & music. I love the word glycerine in a poem! I had to add her to my to-read list.
Portrait of a Barmaid
Metallic waves of people jar Through crackling green toward the bar
Where on the tables chattering-white The sharp drinks quarrel with the light.
Those coloured muslin blinds the smiles, Shroud wooden faces in their wiles—
Sometimes they splash like water (you Yourself reflected in their hue).
The conversation loud and bright Seems spinal bars of shunting light
In firework-spurting greenery. O complicate machinery
For building Babel, iron crane Beneath your hair, that blue-ribbed mane
In noise and murder like the sea Without its mutability!
Outside the bar where jangling heat Seems out of tune and off the beat—
A concertina's glycerine Exudes, and mirrors in the green
Your soul: pure glucose edged with hints Of tentative and half-soiled tints. ...more
Another early review copy of a book that I'm reading for LibraryThing.com. There is a black & white photograph of the author (as a child) with herAnother early review copy of a book that I'm reading for LibraryThing.com. There is a black & white photograph of the author (as a child) with her mom & grandmother at the start of the book, which might tell you what the book is like. It's just like the title...sweet, but not substantial....more
Well, I kind of read it, at any rate. This one's on loan from Trina Burke, and I really just can't do it. I think the failing is more with me than theWell, I kind of read it, at any rate. This one's on loan from Trina Burke, and I really just can't do it. I think the failing is more with me than the poems...they are long, and meandering, and a little hard to parse. I don't normally have so much trouble with putting in effort to read hard poems, but I just can't seem to make it through....more
Also read this during my recent trip to L.A., as an antidote to the mindlessness & stupefying traffic that surrounded me. What can I say? This isAlso read this during my recent trip to L.A., as an antidote to the mindlessness & stupefying traffic that surrounded me. What can I say? This is RK at his best. Beautiful sonnets; arresting & smart imagery; lots of science & philosophy, history, religion & nature...brilliant....more