Sunday, January 22, 2006

Football 'n' Poetry

Football today, Seattle vs. Carolina. And it might actually be sunny today for the game. I will be glued to the telly. And maybe trying to read and write during commercials.

I have been reading Timothy Liu's new book, For Dust Thou Art. I have been a fan of his work ever since Vox Angelica. This new book has three sections; the middle section begins with a poem titled "The Day After," and is a sequence of stunning 9/11 poems, that are so much more than just 9/11 poems. Here is one:


Hundreds of bodies identified. Others
found only in parts. A demand
for Nostradamus on the rise: In the city
of York there will be a great collapse —
two twin brothers torn apart by a third
big war to begin when the city burns

tents from Fashion Week in Bryant Park sponsored
by Mercedes Benz now converted
into staging areas for the dead — too late
for the Emmys though Miss America
will go on as seventy-two virgins
of Paradise welcome the martyrs in —

There are his usual frank and erotic love/sex poems sprinkled throughout the book. As well as some poems that are more like lists of unrelated lines, double-spaced, that seem to be based on disjunction and randomness. I wonder if he is trying to demonstrate how trauma and catastrophe can lead to fracture and dissociation, both in individuals and in communities. I think these poems work, for the most part. And they seem easy to write. Just randomly choose ten good lines from several drafts you are working on, and shuffle them around. Because they all came from your mind, you will probably find a way to thread them together. And you may surprise yourself with the result. Here is one of Liu's:


Massive flows near falls where turbines ran.

Hate or truce it flowers from within.

As habitat to penetrate a faggot's slender hips.

Flesh on flesh no matter who insists.

Pop-can scavengers skirting up to our streets.

To survive another forty years the odds.

For sport down alleys lined with a dirt hole.

Nor understood just you weather it.

Baseball bats mere dust motes under the eye.

In limited supply the scriptures that promote.

For Dust Thou Art was an "Editor's Selection" in 2005 at Crab Orchard Review/Southern Illinois University Press. Read more about it at the Crab Orchard Series site.


garylmcdowell said...

Peter -

I too enjoyed Liu's new book. I wrote a review of For Dust Thou Art that will be appearing in Mid-America Review this Spring. Maybe you'd like to check it out?

I agree though, the second section of the book is fantastic.


Peter said...

Hi Gary: yes, I'd love to see it. Is it out now?