Friday, May 27, 2005

Hot, Crush

It's hot in Seattle. A high of 89 yesterday, and might hit 90 today. We are not used to this kind of weather in May! Dean and I sipped ice cold lemon drops on the back patio in the shade last night after work, and cooled off while the salmon cooked in the too hot kitchen. Today we hope to get some work done in the yard before the heat becomes too unbearable.

I've been reading Richard Siken's Crush, winner of this year's Yale Series of Younger Poets award (see Emily Lloyd's GAP review here). I was trying to explain to my writing group Wednesday night what I like about this book, and I couldn't really put it into words very well. I guess it is the voice: it's a young, brash, cocksure, yet vulnerable voice. And it's also the look of the poems on the page: the long flowing cascading lines, with a wonderful music to them. And it's also the imagery: sensual, visceral, sexy, and at times dangerous and violent. And finally the humor: amid the darkness, he can make me laugh out loud, as in the long series of prose poems, where all the characters in it are, ridiculously, named Jeff!

Here's a poem from the book (it can probably speak for itself better than I can speak for it) (sorry I had to reduce the font to get the line indentations to fit). It's the opening poem, and I read it as an invocation of sorts, to Scheherazade, who told her stories to keep alive, just as Siken seems to be telling these urgent poems: "just one more, just one more . . . . "

Tell me about the dream where we pull the bodies out of the lake
and dress them in warm clothes again.
How it was late, and no one could sleep, the horses running
until they forget they are horses.
It's not like a tree where the roots have to end somewhere,
it's more like a song on a policeman's radio,
how we rolled up the carpet so we could dance, and the days
were bright red, and every time we kissed there was another apple
to slice into pieces.
Look at the light through the windowpane. That means it's noon. That means
we're inconsolable.
Tell me how all this, and love too, will ruin us.
These, our bodies, possessed by light.
Tell me we'll never get used to it.


C. Dale said...

Yes, Siken's work is gorgeous. I even re-read the book a few days ago.

the machinist said...

I'm on the bandwagon here with Crush. If I find myself up to it, maybe I'll try to post a few thoughts, though they'll be convulated ramblings.

Oh, and Peter:

[pre] before the poem and [/pre] after the poem (I think that's it) and it shows up just like you'd type it in the post blog section.

That's the one thing I know about computers.

Peter said...

Woody: thanks re the formatting code. I have got to write that down somewhere so I remember it! hehehe

Robert said...

Something about the poem's tone weirdly reminds me of Brigit Pegeen Kelly. I know they're totally different and I've probably just had too much coffee this morning, but is that connection totally crazy?

32poems said...

I just bought that book and love it so far.


A. D. said...

I just bought Crush maybe 30 minutes ago. Why is it that the Yale books are always such odd sizes? Why is the print so darn small in this one?

Suzanne said...

Wow. Thank you, Peter.

Peter said...

AD: Yes, it is an oddly sized book, isn't it. They could have made it larger, or at least wider, and then the font wouldn't have to be so darn tiny to avoid breaking lines.

I forgot to mention: one of the things I like about this book is the very "out" subject matter. Unapologetic and unashamed of the darker side gay life, as well.

I guess my only criticism would be the poems have a fairly narrow range: each poem is almost the same in language, tone, and subject matter; and (except for the prose poems and one or two others)the typographical look on the page.