Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I'm Talking About Love


In most of the songs I love, the lyrics somehow illustrate an agitation or itch so deep, that one must scream---or chant rhythmically, at least---to work it out. Shake it out like a bad dream. Bury it with some bass or something. Think Primus. Often there is a guitar involved, like the year Nirvana's Nevermind came out---I was in college and the songs were everywhere, at every party, practically in every car. Or, there was the socially conscious hip-hop like A Tribe Called Quest, De la Soul, or Public Enemy talking about a similar revolution that John Lennon or a poet like Martin Espada might have called us to form. Then there's someone like Ian MacKaye or Zack de la Rocha, people whose albums I would buy every year if they put one out every year. And I like this new group I found called Beauty Pill. And Ben Harper. Yeah. Ben Harper.

And so I am drawn to poetry with a similar dissonance or grit. I want beauty and grit wrapped up nicely together, you know? Call it a sensibility if you want. Something like Philip Levine or Andres Montoya. Do we not prize those writers whose words (re) shape our vision? Don't poets like Myung Mi Kim, Ko Un, and Pablo Neruda do this? Yes. Good poets do this, I think. Yes, there is the music, the line, the form and the play. There is the sound. There is the scope and the economy, yes. But does the poem do anything besides display its own skill? Does the poem have a purpose beyond the aesthetic? Perhaps the aesthetic is enough? Maybe beauty is everything? And what is the fascination with wit these days? Let us keep beauty---and at least, a deep sense of agitation and history.

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For anyone reading this: do you have any new poetry book (or any other kind of book) recommendations? I'm looking to round out my Christmas wish-list.

11 comments:

Lyle Daggett said...

Why Did You Leave the Horse Alone? by Mahmoud Darwish, translated by Jeffrey Sacks, published by Archipelago Books.

Traces in Blood, Bone, & Stone, anthology of poems by contemporary Ojibwe poets, edited by Kimberly Blaeser, published by Loonfeather Press.

The Ice House by Floyce Alexander, published by Red Dragonfly Press.

And one other, not quite "new" (though not old as poetry goes):

Poets of the Non-Existent City: Los Angeles in the McCarthy Era edited by Estelle Gershgoren Novak. Anthology of poems, with a little prose and artwork, by Thomas McGrath and the circle of poets who gravitated around him during the time he lived in Los Angeles in the 1950's and 1960's.

Lee Herrick said...

Excellent recommendations, Lyle. That last one sounds espeically right up my alley. I'll have to look at them all, though. Thank you for these.

barbara jane said...

hi lee, i am glad to see you back in blogworld! i missed you!

anyway, i am about 2/3 of the way thru reading justin chin's latest book, gutted (manic d press), and it is a good, effective collision of beauty, grit, formalism and formlessness, exploding of cliche, found poems.

Lee Herrick said...

hi barbara, thanks for the welcome back. i missed you and everybody as well (but yours is one I always read, whether I am blogging or not)...

i'll check out justin chin's book. thanks for mentioning it. he's got a pretty big fan base in the Bay Area, doesn't he?

Michael Parker said...

I agree with your thoughts here, Lee. Welcome back.

I'm even taking note of Lyle's and Barbara's intriguing suggestions. I've been reading Lorca--Selected Verse: Frederico Garcia Lorca. Though there is merit to his work, especially the images he employs, I do find myself enjoying the style, voice, and tone of contemporary poetry.

Lee Herrick said...

Thanks, Michael. Yes, their suggestions are really good. And I love the little Lorca that I have read. I just loaned my copy of Residence on Earth (Neruda) to a former student, a very talented writer. I should probably buy more of Neruda's books as well.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree Lee.

Anyway, I just started my own blog and I've linked you, if you don't mind.

-Burlee Vang

jenni said...

Yes, there is the music, the line, the form and the play. There is the sound. There is the scope and the economy, yes. But does the poem do anything besides display its own skill? Does the poem have a purpose beyond the aesthetic? Perhaps the aesthetic is enough? Maybe beauty is everything? And what is the fascination with wit these days? Let us keep beauty---and at least, a deep sense of agitation and history.

amen!

Great post, Lee. So glad to have you back! Get Ross Gay's book -- I think you'd like his work -- streetwise yet sensitive.

Lee Herrick said...

Burlee, I'm glad you're blogging, and thanks for linking me. I'll link to yours as well if you don't mind. Hope the HAWC is going well.

Jenni, thanks for the "amen"! I'll check out Ross Gay's stuff...I've heard good things about his work. you getting any more good veggies these days?

jenni said...

No more -- pulled them all up in Sept. We have FROST in the morning. It may be the closest thing to snow that we get so I'm enjoying it. Meanwhile, our heater broke and I've been having to go into the woods to collect wood for our fireplace so we don't freeze. Coincedently, I am reading Walden again. Jack came home yesterday and saw the wood by the fireplace and was like, "Wow you're really taking that book seriously."

Lee Herrick said...

Whoa. Frost. I know what you mean about fires being nice---I love making them (my wife likes them, too)---although here in Fresno the air is so polluted the city puts restrictions on what nights you can make a fire. They fine people who burn on "non-burn days."