Saturday, March 20, 2010

I've been having some fun reading a few things lately. Here's a quick roundup:

I bought Nick Lantz's new book We Don't Know We Don't Know off the shelf at Elliott Bay Books the other day. It won the recent Bread Loaf Bakeless Prize (apparently he has a second book, The Lightning That Strikes the Neighbors' House, that has won the Felix Pollack Prize, and is also about to be released -- lucky guy!). In We Don't Know We Don't Know Lantz uses hilarious epigraphs from dufus Donald Rumsfield (of "known unknowns" fame) and from uber-wise Pliny the Elder as contrasting guides in his exploration of language, fate, nature, war. It's really a delightful read: intelligent, funny, provocative, accessible. One of my favorites is this short one, probably taken from a YouTube video (the title is longer than the poem):

The Collapse of a Twenty-Story Bamboo
Construction Scaffold Caught on Home Video --
Hong Kong, September 12th 2002


Until you play the tape backward,
you do not see the body: live and leaping
into the reassembling wreckage.

*

Also reading in Kay Ryan's new and selected The Best of It. I loved this new one, about Daylight Savings Time. She is the Dickinson of our era.




Retroactive

If rewards or
amends could
set the clock
back as happens
in fall when
an hour is stalled
for the sake of light,
then our golgothas
could be put right.
The kiss or reform
or return of the
family farm would
soak into the
injury, ease the
knot of memory,
unname the site
of harm. If there
could be one day
—one hour—of jubilee
how many lame
would walk their property.


*

Also reading Adam Kirsch's essay collection The Modern Element. I don't care for his poetry so much, but his essays are brilliant. In the final essay he is longing for a poetics and criticism that breaks free from the rock-paper-scissors "post-Romantic dialectic that obsessed American poetry in the twentieth century." He points to a "saner, more sophisticated, more humane tradition (italics mine)," in which we will not "need to look to poetry for transcendence, or to flee into aestheticism when transcendence fails, or to flee into authenticity when aestheticism fails." Some great insightful essays here, especially on Ashbery, Graham, Gluck, Roethke and Wright, Koch, Larkin.

1 comment:

Kells said...

Wow, I must check out Nick's book! Thanks for that!