Friday, February 10, 2006


There is alot travel, physically and mentally. Most poets who focus on 'nature' or natural phenomena, seem to be all about being closer to an otherness, that might be God or some other mystical type mojo. Alot of it just ends up sounding sanctimonious, like someone worried over whether they appreciate something enough. In a book, like Rivers & Birds, which might be categorized as Nature or even Birding, the narration is of watching land as it passes. The sense of mental travel comes from memory and a sense of forlornness. When there is exhultation, its an intent, precise exhultation. Which seems very unlike most writing about nature, where is there is a narrator speaking for the birds and trees, and then they're talking back too and telling the narrator (of course) something about George Bush. Gilfillan has a deeper respect for his experience of the places he goes to.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

There is something about Gillfillan's vocabulary. In the poetry, there is alot of trekking through areas that are either uninhabited or inhabited scantily. He seems to know the name of each plant, animal and especially bird that he encounters. Place is what sings however. There is a remarkable combining of the word-generator aspect one founds in someone like Clark Coolidge or Michael Gizzi, and the plain musical tautness of Lorine Niedecker. I don't know what alot of the words mean, but that's hardly to say those words themselves are used to some effect of exoticizing the poem. Gillfillan puts each one where it belongs, for the sake of accurate description, and facilitating the overall measure of it. Balance and spontenaiety at the same time. By all means one should know what the words in a poem mean. But I can't help but think that in Merrill Gilfillan's poetry, that's beside the point. The poems have a variousness that seems to me to rival only Pound or Frank O'Hara.
Merril Gilfillan Selected Poems 1965-2000

I've been waiting for this. Merrill Gilfillan is one of the great underrated poets of recent American poetry. His vocabulary, brea(d)th, and ear for poetry is spectacular and regenerative. The poems are like prairies, some large, some small, all outwardly blooming yet unfettered by the author's ego, or by preconcieved ideas about nature. The language has a way of blossoming out from itself, while still maintaining a train of thought. There's nobody like him. More later.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Bill Luoma

Read My Trip to New York City, because I heard it compared to Tambourine Life by Jordan Davis. Ok is that sycophantic? Well I didn't pay for it. Checked it out. And its pretty amazing. A series of paragraphs that connect but are self-contained by seperate ideas/observations/memories. People from Luoma's life (presumably) are in them: Douglass, Helena, Brian. Also Paul Molitor and Robin Yount. My favorite paragraph:

"There was a perfect cab ride from 13 th street to Brooklyn. It was at a late hour and I can say that the streets were as empty as they were going to get. The cab driver was a rasta, so he already knew the concept. After abouth the fifth time me and Douglass looked at each other every time we made a light. We noted that the speed was 32. The driver sang just my imagination in what was pretty close to a high falsetto. We didn't miss a light."

A brief passage in a much larger text, but so lovely. In prose that's terse enough to avoid becoming tedious, but not too terse to have "pretty close". It's speech but it's spot-on marvelous, all connected by the web that is one's social life and experience. Each sentence has a new detail-- cab ride from 13th to Brooklyn, late hour/streets empty, driver is a rasta, looking at each other, making every light, speed of 32, driver singing, almost a high falsetto voice, making every light. Does one go ahead and say that making every light is a metaphor? Its works more as a journal, evoked with such efficient vocabulary and description. The idea is that vernacular is modulated, sort of, to tell the story in a more streamlined and more vivid way. Its a driving prose. So OK, Kerouac wrote pretty famous driving prose. But the literal action here contains a trek from point A, Manhattan, to point B, Brooklyn. It went smoothly, though one might have said it went smoothly because there wasn't a flat tire or a mugging. This ride went so smoothly, it made the speaker and Douglass look at each other each they made a light. It was a brief spot when one felt like one glided through.

This whole work is pretty great example of what's become sort of a genre, which could be called Social Diary. A notable precursor is Ted Berrigan's letter to Ron Padgett from the Berkley Poetry Conference. One's documenting specific streets, places, people. The speech resembles them recounting it all to you, maybe over the telephone. A funny quote, the perfect cab ride, a taxi driver with a high falsetto voice.

Monday, February 06, 2006

To read & write is symmetrical. The prose trickles PHAT KNOWLEDGE.