Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summer, screech owls, spiders, and WHAT IS AMAZING

Summer feels like no time to blog, as the distance in time between the last post and this one will attest. i want to be out in the garden, or under the high loose canopy of leaves out back, where the shadows of branches vein the slope of grass. I love it there; it's a place where the mind wants to drift downward toward the moles in their tunnels, or up toward the new screech owl nesting box I've hung fifteen feet or so off the ground. Still empty, I think, though the other night I heard the underwater ripple of their call, after twilight, from the woods behind my neighbor's house, its piercing quality softened bit by distance. Maybe it'll be next year before they find the box. The little round opening and the pile of cedar shavings for nest-making await.

I've been reading a fine new book of poems by Heather Christle called WHAT IS AMAZING; it will be out from Wesleyan 'ere long. Heather's collection is making me think about poetry as a vessel of subjectivity. Maybe one of the art's functions is to record something of what it feels like to be alive in any particular moment; it's almost accidental, for the poet, that this inscription becomes historical, preserving an aspect of the spirit of the age. Think of Frank O'Hara, and the way those remarkable present-tense poems, dedicating to transcribing the motions of eye, mind and heart in the moment, seem timeless. They're happening right now, as you read them, but they also a moment of consciousness in New York in the 1950s in a crystalline form.

Christle's book feels very particular to the 21st century, but I haven't been able to articulate to myself just how this is so. Because they're notations of awareness, both private and public at once? Because they're tentative, like pages from a secret notebook, and also oddly bold, artfully earning the reader's allegiance and bringing us into alignment with the writer's way of seeing? Because the speaker feels like a kind of psychic seismograph, recording the major and minor tremors that ripple through her awareness?

Well, what you see above is me thinking my way towards a blurb, trying to find my way to some kind of reasonably intelligent formulation about challenging work that I love. Challenging to describe, I mean, which is what a good blurbs does. Praise is easy, but the work of actually articulating what a poet seems to be up to is a whole other task.

Anyway, here's a poem from the book, one I think is just extraordinary.


The spider he is confused
b/c I am not killing him
only moving him outdoors
When I die I do not want
to feel confused
Please I would rather feel clarity
like I am a pool
and death a chlorine tablet
I want it to feel
not like I am dying
but am being transferred
to the outside
And I hope I do not drown
as I have seen happen
to hundreds of spiders
b/c I love to swim
and to drown would
wreck swimming
for a long time
But death is like none of this
I know that death is a tower
standing in the middle of the town
And the tower receives
many visits
And there's no one
but spiders inside