I was chuffed to hllearn that this year’s Best American Poetry collection was being edited by Mark Doty, who is one of my favorite poets (I did a piece on his “Crepe de Chine” a while back). As we read through the book, I was a bit disappointed not to find the poems grabbing me, but as sometimes happens, on the second or third time through I warmed to quite a few of them.
Rae Armantrout, “Accounts”
The poem is, of course, about physics; it plays on account as narrative or explanation, such as those offered by physicists who decrypt the puzzle of the universe, and account as reckoning (as in convservation laws)… It’s mostly the last lines that I like:
Is balancing his checkbook.
God is encrypting his account.
This is taking forever.
Rick Barot, “Child Holding Potato”
I like the prim evasiveness of “seemed victorious in their relation to time.” The poet seeks refuge in the still lifes and portraits that are immune from any diagnosis, but art isn’t that easy to use—mortality insinuates itself in the form of the bizarre potato (Berot admits that it is probably intended to be a pear or stone or something like that):
. In my mouth,
the raw starch. In my mouth, the dirt.
I confess that it is strange to see someone other than Seamus Heaney writing poetry about potatoes.
Heather Crissel, “Basic”
This evokes for me the creepy way that emotions can be conjured and manipulated by relatively mechanical tricks (think of swelling strings in a movie score):
“This program is designed to make people cry and then step away when they are finished.”
The resistance to such manipulations is one of the big projects of modern art, pursued perhaps most programmatically (though nnot most constructively, imho) by Gertrude Stein.
Elaine Equi, “A Story Begins”
The story of my life as a reader of mysteries—I am not sure if the stupid tribe at the end is intended to represent the frustrated reader of crappy fiction, but it could be. I like
We are the excess of the story
Tough but interesting, as Huck would say.
That’s probs enough for now..I’ll do another installment later.