Against madness; speech was temporary; poetry was truth. Sadness and Happiness was followed a year later by a book of criticism, The Situation of Poetry , in which Pinsky attempted to transcend polemical arguments about aesthetic and social divisions in the poetic canon by emphasizing the availability of a rich and varied tradition. Pinsky has documented his love of the saxophone and jazz in many of his poems and essays, and his best poems often feel—however carefully planned—like the most exquisitely timed solos.
Impossible to tell his whole delusion.
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In the first months when I had moved back East. From California and had to leave a message. On Bob's machine, I used to make a habit. Of telling the tape a joke; and part-way through,. I would pretend that I forgot the punchline,. Or make believe that I was interrupted—. He'd have to call me back. The joke was Elliot's,. More often than not. The doctors made the blunder. That killed him some time later that same year.
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One day when I got home I found a message. On my machine from Bob.
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He had a story. About two rabbis, one of them tall, one short,.
One day while walking along the street together. They see the corpse of a Chinese man before them,. And Bob said, sorry, he forgot the rest. Of course he thought that his joke was a dummy,. Impossible to tell—a dead-end challenge. Each time the title phrase returns it is changed by its context and presentation. Other poems from this period unfold in a similar but subtler fashion. No particular theme or image receives greater emphasis than another, any more than one note in a musical phrase or composition receives more weight except in the role it plays in phrasing the greater whole.
These poems are deeply personal yet openly intelligible, steeped in history and the culture of the day. To a mind receptive to the strengths of Shakespeare as well as Eliot, Ginsberg as well as Keats, autobiographical material would seem no more or less important than a historical battle or the construction of a bridge; neither would one be worth throwing away in favor of the other.
Jersey Rain , released in , built on earlier strengths but signaled a shift into new territory, the boundaries of which were not immediately clear. The poems in Jersey Rain are both shorter and longer in scope, more fragmented and more discursive at the same time. If Pinsky began his career by writing elegant, loose discursive poems, his later poems seemed to be aging into a powerfully concentrated mix of styles:. Stone wheel that sharpens the blade that mows the grain. Wheel of the sunflower turning, wheel that turns.
The spiral press that squeezes the oil expressed. From grain or olives. Particles turned to mud. That holds the oil that drips to cool the blade. Ippa Fano wanna bella, wella-wah. Ever alert and responsive to shifts in idiomatic speech and formal innovation, Pinsky often writes in his latest work as though he were taking cues from a younger generation of poets who, in turn, were influenced and inspired by him. Much contemporary poetry, however—while displaying a similar athletic ability with language alongside innovative, imaginative thinking—often seems more overwhelmed by its materials than master of them.
This failure, I think, comes from the fear of making a statement, of a poet holding himself accountable for the dialogue initiated by the materials, tenants and tendencies of the day. Statements are risky and unstylish still. Any technique he applies toward this end—destabilizing the central speaker, using sound as a structural principle, focusing a wider lens on culture and history, experimenting with compositional structures—is grounded in the desire to communicate effectively to an audience assumed to be listening.
Selected Poems charts the course of a varied, prolific and still-evolving career. First published in Pleiades, Volume 32, Number 2. What constitutes poetic style? A consistent method of inquiry?
An insistent mode of thought? A primacy granted certain images at the calculated expense of others? Or is it music, rhythm, sound? All of these things? Buckley seems—in his most recent books, at least— to be writing the same poem again and again, each time striving for the best possible expression of what has become his particular taste and style.
How else to explain the myriad similarities between his two most recent releases from University of Tampa Press, Roll the Bones and White Shirt? Most nights I can see. This is everything. I will ever have—glimmering. No explanation. So much confetti. The primacy of image is clear: a southern California landscape saturates these poems, images against which the restless mind of the speaker weaves its patterning.
And so his poetry is necessarily various and inclusive, attempting to weave together the divergent strands of experience that make up a life. Buckley has become an expert at his particular creation, the West Coast discursive-meditative lyric, but his facility at blending an admirable assortment of images can at times grown patterned, as if the mind had become stuck in its own groove. We carry our daydreams. What have I been trying.
The poem, despite its best intentions, slips continually into abstractions that instead of extending or pleasantly complicating the concrete details, only muddy the waters. None of this would be worth noticing if Buckley was a second-rate poet. He is not.
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He has, after all, managed to craft a distinctive and recognizable style over his thirty plus years at work, one that is inclusive and inviting, blessed with a capacious musicality and an attentiveness to beauty that feels almost religious. The same assortment of images and themes abound, but Buckley seems to be asking new things of them, and so he avoids indulgences that hamper Roll the Bones. Other poems find Buckley loosing the reins on a syntactic delivery that is more often firmly wedded to sense, the images of his beloved Pacific welcoming an infusion of fresh grit:.
When I was 5 and first in school,. I refused, after lunch each day,. It was something. I arrived with on the planet.
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And he has amassed quite a collection, despite the fact that some poems wind up reading like less-effective imitations of others. These poems reward reading and re-reading not because of any great daring or self-conscious import, but because they provide the experience of a mind active and alive in both the quotidian and the metaphysical loftiness of the world. First published in Kenyon Review Online, Winter Only after delineating his argument across four sections does Doty venture into more associative territory, closing his book with an alphabetical lexicon that steers its way through various terms associated with his subject: Hunger and Juxtaposition; Language and Art.
Young begins in abandon and ends there, enlisting along the way a diverse array of poems, artistic movements and historical episodes in his cause. While it is a whimsical, even enjoyable conceit, this final section reads more like an extended epilogue than the triumphant finale it means to enact.
Warning: if you are the type who dog-ears pages at every inspirational or provocative quote, then your copy of The Art of Recklessness may soon become too cluttered with folds to navigate with any degree of certainty—though this may be exactly what this book demands.
source site Some paragraphs seem to be constructed from clusters of quotations and lists of aesthetic ultimatums alone:. Pattern as much a deficiency as a realization. No one gets to count forever. Bloom rhyming with doom. Already I feel the flowers growing over me, he said,. Open form prone to mouse droppings just as closed. The river swims in the fish. The girl ties back her hair in a universal. A menu. When Young calms down slightly about halfway through, it is to guide his readers through an energetic but elucidated history lesson, exploring the ways in which the aesthetics of certain stylistic trends in art and writing inform his argument.
Romanticism led to Impressionism from which exploded Dadaism, against which Surrealism launched its claims, etc etc. But Young is out to connect these movements at their ragged ends, to show how the presence of the primitive—what he deems the essence of the imaginative life—continued to stir the collective creative pot century after century. At the core of Recklessness is a fiery desire to uncover the meaning of why we write poems, what makes them truly exceptional, and how we can harness our inner wildness to surprise ourselves again and again.
But Young manages to avoid this quagmire for the most part, focusing on recklessness as a necessary part of the creative process itself rather than as a necessity in the appearance of the finished work. If a work of art appears reckless, it is because it intends to do so, not because it has abandoned intention. But he is careful to stipulate that all energy and no conduit make Dean a cranky boy: art is inevitably a balance between forces, and where there is fire there must be control.
First published in Pleiades, Volume 32, Number 1.