Saturday, January 17, 2009

Clumps and Voids

The contemporary poets I read are mostly bloggers, and mostly, like me, they're in rebellion against overly precious, obscure poetry. Our unwritten credo might be: if this would make boring impenetrable nonsense written out as prose, chopping it into lines will not make it good poetry, no matter how many clever effects you build into it and how much verbal riffing you do.

We don't have a lot of patience with poetry that yields its surface meaning reluctantly. Too often it does so because there isn't much meaning there in the first place, and it has to make what there is last.

I say all this, not to argue that our poetry is better than theirs ("our" poetry is always better than "theirs," and who cares?) but by way of urging you to read a poet who doesn't at first look like one of us. Her poems do yield their surface meaning with reluctance. But there's more and more and more in them. And if you read them aloud, which I urge you to do, their music will astonish you, and the words will keep resonating in your head for days Her use of rhyme and alliteration is magnificent, and her meter is the most skilled and disciplined of any poet I read (with the possible exception of Dick Jones'). Say these stanzas over to yourself a few times:

glass spice-vials
of curry/ cumin/ turmeric


processions of jars
glink-glink reassurances

The poet is Julia Martin, of Clumps and Voids. She is also, not coincidentally, a brilliant aphorist; check out the sidebar, "herr keppler's notebook," for such asides as:

Professionalism is not saying "asshole" until you hang up.


Mammograms are S&M without a safe word.

The appearance of Clumps and Voids has been one of the delights for me of 2008.

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