Thursday, April 08, 2004

Sometime last year Ron Silliman suggested that one function of poets' blogs could be to create an audience for those poets' books. At the time this bothered me because I thought it sounded too mercenary. But now I'm realizing it could simply be an observation about conditioning--how it's now inevitable that I'll be reading hard-copy work by people I've only previously "known" as blogs, and how inevitably I will read the work through that context, or even as an extension of the blog itself (especially true now that a many people, myself included, are starting to incorporate material from their blogs into work in print). I guess one risk is that the printed "work" might come to seem attenuated, a restricted economy in comparison to the blog's variousness. But the flipside of that is that being a reader of someone's blog will surely alert you to all kinds of things in their poetry you might not otherwise have been sensitive enough to.

Thinking about all of that as I'm reading Alli Warren's SCHEMA, which has a lot of those qualities I value in Alli's blog--most notably, what I guess I'd call a (can I say this?) fearless vulnerability, a willingness to let "these words / fondle each other / agape and slightly pink," and then "invite the polis / come see."

Alli's one of a number of younger poets (ack, stop me, I'm "reviewing") who are trying to reclaim something that isn't quite "feeling" or "sentiment" but something funnier and more self-conscious and yet at the same time simpler and more visceral; it's maybe related to the flarf-y (haven't heard that one in a while, eh?) desire to reclaim "bad" or cheesy language as oddly sublime--

sprawled out in socks

they don't mean anything by it

sad and muggy all day

in her underpants milk grows

--but at the same time is animated by an intelligence that works in merciless lightning jabs:

This continent of
sub-standard delirium
& posture

treating objects
like women

Maybe it's an attempt to get (back) to something more human through all the apparatus that keeps us from getting there, knowing it's not possible but unembarrassed about trying:

there is no rent control
why don't you sit on my face
and imagine
if only I didn't occupy this penis
full of integrity
it could be snowing.

I think the best poems in the book are the selections from "Couplets," a project that unfolded in blogtime (sometime last September, if I'm not mistaken) as a conversation between Alli and Patrick Durgin, and a great example of collaboration as two poets writing to and through each other, riffing off each other's lines and generally egging each other on to better and better things. The rhythms here are sharp and urgent, remixing the concerns of the earlier poems

smelling like "beer"
have you seen my dictionary

looking like "underpants"
are we the polis eyes

with lots of "trips in melons" and "mean soda pop." I remember reading Alli's and Patrick's poems as they appeared on their blogs and being surprised and touched by the intimacy that so quickly developed; maybe this kind of warm, smart collaboration is exactly the kind of exchange Alli's poetry moves toward--

and between blocks of text say 'love'
as if opening fire--repeatedly.

No comments: