The Best American Poetry 2011, Part 3

I am working my way through The Best American Poetry 2011.  I started with poems I’d like to have written, then commented on interesting poems.  Today I sense a bit of the snarky critic.  Perhaps it’s the heat.

Major Jackson says his poems from Holding Company are full of “lyric density…associative leaps..dialogic language…”  He sees “lyric as the melodic use of language;”  “…each poem an improvised moment of insinuation and linguistic discovery;” “an utterance that unfolds in the syntactic cathedral that is a poem.”  FYI, the suffix “-ic” is used to form an adjective from a noun.  Possibly also as in egotistic?

 “Notebooks” by Allison Joseph is about notebooks.  She says she likes to write about concrete things.  In this batch of poems that’s a relief because the next one, by L. S. Klatt, “Andrew Wyeth, Painter, Dies at 91,” has lines like “A giant squid rises out of a hayfield” in it, which the author describes as “severe and bizarre imagery.” 

I love snow which is perhaps why I like “Snow” by James Longenbach.  He lives in Rochester, NY where it snows a lot.  His inspiration is an Italian poet, Umberto Saba, who writes, “Snow that falls from above and covers us.”  Longenbach ends with “Snow that covers us from above/Cover us more deeply/Cover the rooftops/Cover the sea.”  Beautiful.

“The Complaint against Roney Laswell’s Rooster” by Maurice Manning is his attempt at lyric poetry.  He set out rules: six line stanzas with five word lines, etc.  He is trying to attain the freedom of lyric, because he thinks he is too tied to narrative.  What makes it successful it the form.  And there is a story, too…we just don’t know how it will end.

Paul Muldoon, the Irishman who is poetry editor of The New Yorker, writes that his poem “The Side Project” is the last of a series of long poems, “…in which, like the members of the circus taking on different roles, the same ninety end-words have run the changes on a range of emotionally charged themes.” 

According to a November 16, 2010 review by Jeremy Noel-Todd in The Telegraph, these poems began “…with The Annals of Chile (1994), a book that used the same extended sequence of 90 different rhyme-sounds across two long poems.”

I read Muldoon’s Moy Sand and Gravel, which is full of very creative uses of rhyme and imaginary words.*  In “The Side Project,” some rhyme pairs are ordinary:  clover and over; adjourn/return.  Then there are open/gibbon; slobbers/gulper; and unbitten/button.    But these are a mystery:  clover-field/fellatio; pig-grease/carpet-baggers. 

Muldoon is worth a month or two of blog posts so I will end with this for now.

*My post on May 21, 2011, titled “Anniversary,” includes a poem that was inspired by reading MoySand and Gravel.

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