Wednesday, December 27, 2006


I've been reading Ron Starr's A Map by a Dim Lamp, from Ravenna Press (the same press that published Rebecca Loudon's stunning Radish King and John Burgess' edgy Punk Poems, among others). This delightful first book draws upon Oulipian constraints and procedures to produce some very original and thoughtful poetry.

One of my favorites so far: "Creation Myths of the Latter Urbanites" which takes Genesis as the given text and uses scrambling and initial letters to create three versions of a new text:

II.
The Genesis of Lawns
In the beginning green grass created happiness and envy. The expressways were without Fords and Volvos, and dusk was upon the fences of the domiciles . . . (pg.10)

I also enjoyed the language patterning of "I Am a Dark Roof. You are a Light Floor," and the keen humor of "What Mr. Angstrom Remembers," with its prose stanzas of deadpan non sequiturs, such as: "Mr. Angsrom remembers the subjunctive. Always." and "Mr. Angstrom remembers to calmly ignore infinitives and other splits of no consequence." Especially as this last comes after the "divorce" poems "Verdict Ho, or Ditch Eve" (the title made from anagrams of the phrase The Divorce, and the poem made using only the letters from the same phrase) and "from divortere . . . to turn aside, go different ways." Revealing, perhaps, a personal or emotional subtext that some of the writing may arise from.

Finally, "Issa on the Pequod" which ends the book, is a delightful smashup of Issa's haiku with phrases from Moby Dick:

Don't worry, phantom,
I keep ship
casually.

*

Climb, death,
O Evolution,
but slowly, slowly.

*

Ice imitating the body
is even more wonderful
than the body.

(pg 53)


As Starr says in his introduction: " . . . the whole of language is a series of related games with rules, roles, and turns. The threnodial and the lipogram are games. So are the sonnet and the first person free-verse lyric. Games worth playing."

And games that are highly recommended.

6 comments:

Emily Lloyd said...

Thanks for the excellent introduction, Peter--I ordered the book as soon as I'd finished your post. Looking fwd to it.

Peter said...

Glad to be of service, Em!

Lana said...

A really fun read!

Thanks for posting.

Pamela said...

I love the title---the process is a madly hip gambit, and/or a gambit amply hid.

Pamela said...

I love the title---the process is a madly hip gambit, and/or a gambit amply hid.

The Sublibrarian said...

Thank you, Peter.

And thank you, Pamela, for those wonderful anagrams.