Friday, September 29, 2006

Apropos of absence of personality: I want to start with these lines from
"In a Shadow Gate"
by Paul Hoover

Because it has rained and the TV
in on, the world is not itself.
No setting, no plot, no stable
sense of others, yet the vaguest
scent of events absorbs or rather
emits the earthly smell of light.

The woman writes, as if in space:
The boy shines in the house.
The meaning of the sentence

arrives like a shroud or a mouth.
North of her eyes, desirable objects
occupy a blank page of heaven.


I don’t believe that Palmer means, as some LP might, that “personality” can be obliterated in the poem per se. I think he might agree that ALL poems: confessional, language, abstract, or otherwise are somewhat grounded in personality simply because a human wrote them. Even Stein’s work has her signature all over it. Therefore, “personality” is never completely erased. Rather, Palmer is “interested in an attempt to return to the physicality of the WORD AS GESTURE, as an embodiment of the VARIETY of selves and non-selves which propose themselves as language on the page.” Meaning that poetry is not a condensation of other forms (i.e. prose). Or as Bernstein puts it, “That is, in prose you start with the world/ And you find the words to match: in poetry you start with the words and find the world in them.”

More about word as gesture in a moment. First, two poems.

Dearest Reader by Michael Palmer

He painted the mountain over and over again
from his place in the cave, agape
at the light, its absence, the mantled
skull with blue-tinted hollows, wren-
like bird plucking berries from the fire
her hair alight and so on
lemon grass in cafe in clear glass.
Dearest reader there were trees
formed of wire, broad entryways
beneath balconies beneath spires
youthful head come to rest in meadow
beside bend in gravel road, still
body of milky liquid
her hair alight and so on
successive halls, flowered carpets and doors
or the photograph of nothing but pigeons
and grackles by the shadow of a fountain.


Grandmother in the Garden
Louise Gluck

Grandmother in the Garden
Louise Gluck

The grass below the willow
Of my daughter's wash is curled
With earthworms, and the world
Is measured into row on row
Of unspiced houses, painted to seem real.
The drugged Long Island summer sun drains
Pattern from those empty sleeves, beyond my grandson
Squealing in his pen. I have survived my life.
The yellow daylight lines the oak leaf
And the wire vines melt with the unchanged changes
Of the baby. My children have their husbands' hands.
My husband's framed, propped bald as a baby on their pianos,
My tremendous man. I close my eyes. And all the clothes
I have thrown out come back to me, the hollows
Of my daughters' slips...they drift; I see the sheer
Summer cottons drift, equivalent to air.

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