Ann Lauterbach’s ‘Blue Door’: It’s Open

Detail of upcoming post by OutsideAuthority.

(Ann Lauterbach, Poetry March 2023)

The obligatory cancels its strophe. Let me get a grip,
and begin in this other patch where the air is.

“I caught a whiff of poem on the wind straightaway, which is an exceedingly rare smell for one who snorts at verse that doesn’t knock him down. ‘Blue Door’ opened me up like a can of whatever I contain, emptied me out and started filling me with itself. In my dispensable estimation, Ann Lauterbach earns her MacArthur with this construct. It’s piercing and full of sass, tempered in pitch, beyond explicable, so breathable it literally makes me cry.”

The above were my first words after reading “The Blue Door.” What got me in its grip was a sustained sequence of complete sentences. I don’t deny that some of “The Blue Door” is inscrutable (to me), but could that be where verse leaps to poem after all, when it defeats scrutiny yet sweeps me up?

Too many questions spoil the poem.

The poem-as-poem cannot reply.
Which is why we need more voices, even

as we know what happens when
there are more voices. Noise, argument, rupture.

Why not a single voice, one that
represents everyone? Poem? Are you listening?

If only the field could retract
into a new beginning, intact, complex,

the geography of the many
seeding the plural world with accord,

good replicating good; evil,
singular, kept to its barren agenda.

Prayers and wishes could then speed
our recovery from the uninhabitable

scald of the venal market…

Speech this hard wrought oxygenates the soul in a peculiar moment: Many humans chafe now at being arguably binary, yet Silicon Valley is handing keys to the voices between our ears over to the binary machine that is (de)generative AI. Spook language is foisted upon a world already strangling in babble, and the gods are ROFL-ing at the mess.

Not to be hysterical or polemical. Not to

confuse personal anxiety with the future…


The poem surges over the end-stopped “meanwhile” as if breaching a levee.

I have begun to wish I had done things differently,
never to have begun with such sad disclosures.

Absent the stanza, the difficult vocabulary…

… These

discrepancies confuse the grammatical

police. They do not know what to arrest.

Touché! I’m a grammar cop — it’s the vocation talking. If the poem taunts my ilk, I will wear the shoe.

The southern sky has turned peachy…

If you listen carefully, you can hear the thrum

of insomniac wings pulsating between episodes of cloud.

By quoting selectively I doubtless profane the poem and pulverize Ann Lauterbach’s unity of conception, but I don’t grasp that unity myself; I experience her poem as patches of excitement interspersed with bitter-sweet tickle of cognitive predicament. The poem has enlisted me somehow not to fight the tickle, to accept that it states the incomprehensible between bouts of the peachy. Is that the same is saying that it enlists trust in its seriousness? Look at how the blue door “opens the night sky” in a strange way of putting itself to rest:

Is writing a way of stalling for time,
to delay the tasks in the next room…?
Poem is too busy to answer.
Words are like small magnets,
pulling other words toward them, one by one,
so the singles gather and as they gather
they attest to an alignment that will become
meaning. What was it you said about naming?
It makes a way between unbeing and being,
the definite flowing into the circulating infinite,
the blue door opening the night sky.

I say writing is a way to delay extinction of voices like this we hope are ours.

(c) 2023 JMN — EthicalDative. All rights reserved

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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