Sunday, February 19, 2006

On Poems & Figure Skating: Silliman, Myles, Sikelianos and George

*Posted today on Ron's blog

There is a lesson in this for poetry. When I say, as I have more than once, that there are more good poets now writing than ever before in our history, I don’t necessarily mean that more great poems a la ”The Waste Land” or “Howl” (or whatever your iconic preference might be) are being written at this moment, tho that’s not inconceivable. What I mean is this: there are more poets who are not making Johnny Weir’s mistake – they are putting everything they have into the poem, not at all holding back. That to me is the test of a poet, regardless of which school they aspire to. Do they give everything to the poem? If the answer is yes, then I don’t see how you or I could ever ask anything more of them. Let’s just marvel at the effort.

~ Ron Silliman

Absolutely with you on this. Particularly the last paragraph. I have often compared the poetic process and the test -- whatever it is -- to the Olympics for figure skaters. How it's so much body and bodylessness. I think of that other black skater (oops, spacing out on the name) who used to listen to George of the Jungle, the theme from the kids' cartoon, while she skated, timing her quads to the part: "Watch out for that tree!/ Aaaauuuuwwaaahhhahhhhh!" and land them perfectly. Then, when she felt too old and cool and GOLD for the tape, she started falling. I think she owns a skating rink now. And maybe is a sports injury doctor.

By the way, the latter part of your last paragraph was almost verbatim my argument for giving your NEA application an award. I couldn't care less about taxonomies and trophy hunting. Ah! but the poem! Marvels indeed. I was just recommending your work, the poetry, to a student friday (in case your ears were burning.) I was describing "winning" the argument (against: "Oh, this just seems to me to be the typical garden variety NY l=a-n=g-u=a=g=e poetry") by just reading the lines I had happened to write down on my comment card and then reading back lines of an app the panelists had just trashed, the lines I had written down on a card as examples of 'leaps not landed": Good lines. Bad lines. Good lines. Corrupt judging or not; it all becomes transparent in the product. For all the reams of styles, you either land it or you don't. Or, like that snowboarder, headed into the final jump before ending the poem and throwing in a bit of melopoetic logopoeia just to showboat, and taking the "Backside Method" in public. One poet I really admire who lands her leaps and can skate is Eileen Myles. Yowza. She's like the gymnist who, unlike everybody else who sticks their dismount at the end of a poem with "Ta DUH!" she ends her recent poems with this breathtaking flurry that leaves you open-mouthed before you even realize it's the end of the poem. But she sticks the landing every time without a wobble, with her own distinct: Dahdahdah DAH!

Yes, many good poets now. Now when we need it. Yes. Let's just marvel at the effort. And buy their books.

Thanks for the daily midwifery. Thanks for bringing so many great new & old poets to our view, like Eleni Sikelianos whom I remember when she was a student at Naropa. She's a good example of a poet who pushes the conditions of possibility to the (b)rink.

It's the river to the slough. Thanks for raining.

p.s. I think Blogger was messed up yesterday afternoon and last night



Post a Comment

<< Home

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More
$223,693,000,000 The Most Expensive Impeachment In History!
Cost of the War in Iraq
To see more details, click here.
Radical Women of Color Bloggers
Join | List | Previous | Next | Random | Previous 5 | Next 5 | Skip Previous | Skip Next