Poetry March 2023 has arrived in my box.
Jenny George powers the issue to a strong start with a poem whose title, unusually, helps read it. Here are the first 4 of its 11 lines:
A snake lies in the open, dormant
in its sleeve of heat. A gilded orphan
on the sun-warmed dirt, eye-slits ajar,
waiting for the infinite to arrive.
Nam Le has 6 rambunctious verse-structures containing (among others) the words “mitotic,” “mitogenic,” “exophones,” “chrismed,” “lexithymia” (= “alexithymia”), “entelechy” and “yarrow.” Entelechy “makes actual what is otherwise merely potential,” according to the Internet. One Nam Le structure actualized laughter for me, which is a coveted trigger. Here’s its crescendo, referring to the Vietnamese language:
… Leaving, at last:
214.— The number of Kangxi/Nôm radicals.
Upon which all articulations hinge.
From which all possibilities spring.
But is this all there is to it? At the end
of number — mere/more language?
I thought of the tedium of Numbers in the King James Bible. But it’s Pound whom Nam Le mentions elsewhere, reminding me of the tedium inflicted by the Cantos on the aspiring Romance linguist who years later writes these lines.
It’s not fair to dribble snippets of Nam Le, but I like this sententious apothegm:
The Way that lets itself be said to be The Way
Is not the Way….
(“[11. VIOLENCE: ANGLO-LINGUISTIC]”)
Dorothea Laskey’s “Framed Pictures” slides past me for 29 lines, then a poem breaks surface in this resonant conclusion:
The dead only speak through poetry
So make the poems be the things
That you give everything
They must carry on
The nod for most radical enjambment goes to KB Brookins:
… The snake plant
’s grooves also remind me of your hips moving like water
to Bad Bunny, bare-faced and singing translations in my ear.
(“The Snake Plant”)
Writers who identify as poets assay discourse that repels paraphrase. I’m beginning to find this liberating. It seems a fool’s errand to restate verse in order to “reveal” what it intends to say, or to extrapolate an arc. (I imagine writers hate when readers do this.) The words are simply there, in ink, on paper (physically or virtually). They’re mine now. I don’t have to goose them into a figuration. I can just be a thrill seeker.
(c) 2023 JMN — EthicalDative. All rights reserved