i was reminded on the squeaky, stuttering F train this morning that i mustn't sigh about having a massive backlog of new yorkers to chew through, even if most of the talk of the town pieces and even some of the feature writing has been rendered hopelessly out of date by last week's election. for the november 12th issue (also pre-election, in magazineland), professor and poet dan chiasson wrote a thoughtful piece on his colleague, the formidable louise glück:
"The poet is supposed to be the person who can't get enough of words like 'incarnadine,'" Glück writes in her essay "Education and the Poet." "This was not my experience." Instead, a handful of recombinant integers—moon, evening, pond, hill—have to do all the work.have integers ever sounded so fine? i've had the good fortune to have all kinds of poetry in my pants of late, from a solemn nocturnal bat-gift from my beloved gal amanda (the book came in a jack o'lantern full of swedish fish, plastic spiders, and wax lips; she knows me well) to balloon pop outlaw black, patricia lockwood's first book. from "the quickening" (a poem about a boy who goes fishing and catches a nibble and swallows it, and is then swallowed by a whale), from inside the whale:
A field trip to the seashore is in here, and the week of anticipation is in here, and the boy who got lost there is in here too. An early obsession with Lake Michigan is in here, and its shores of polished Petoskey stones. His newspaper kite is in here, and his struggle with the kite string. His spiral Vocabulary book is in here, and trouble telling the difference between the Atlantic and the Pacific, and a spanking he got for eating mercury, and a collection of 100 dimes all stamped the year he was born. The Presidency of the Fossil Hunter's Club is in here, and how he longed to find a femur of anything. A chapter of News of the World is in here: "America Swallows the Mermaid Hoax!" A shoebox diorama of the Chugwater Formation is in here, with flecks of mica and flecks of quartz shining between the layers, and its lack of a skeleton still in mid-swim is gleaming in here too.it would be misleading to call tricia lockwood louise glück's opposite, though she feels like the opposite of the glück in chiasson's new yorker essay ("Every poem Glück writes seems one she has denied her adversary—that is, every other human being."). she has a wonderful, filthy, sprawling twitter feed, which is where i first stumbled into her. both there and in her poetry, her precision is generous: it tricks you into a better working relationship with your own brain, and it's where i turn when social media bullies me between the borders of its instagrams and tells what to follow. quoth she,His year in the school orchestra is in here, when it was his job to raise a hand high and bring it down boom on a drum, and make the sound a cartoon makes when it gulps down something good.The whale asks, "Aren't you happy at all? Think of the cramped handwriting you left behind, how it lives in a boardinghouse with low stained ceilings, how a train goes by day and night, how the walls are thin as you-know-what."His jump-rope record of 24 continuous jumps is in here too, like 24 ribs of the whale.
"How do you know my handwriting?" The boy closes his eyes and tries to remember it; he looks out at the waves and sees it slanting to the right. "You used to chew scraps of your notes," the whale says tenderly. "Your small gray spitballs fly through my blowhole all day and all night long."And the boy feels a sudden substance in his mouth, and the stub of a pencil behind one ear.
I have no problem thinking of tweets as poetry, because the really great ones function in the same way that poetry does to me. They are clear and cubic thinking, and they repay obsessive thinking-about. 140 characters is just about the right length to get inside your head, so if I walk around all day chanting “apnews: an girl go back in time to shhot cow that start gret chicago fire . cow say “i expect you” shoot her an start fire with i’ts cigaret” to myself the same way I walk around chanting “The milkman came in the moonlight and the moonlight was less than moonlight,” I see no reason to make a distinction, because I’m not some sort of taxonomy psycho. Honestly, when I think of the question “what is poetry” I picture Linnaeus and David Lehman absolutely making out, hands up each other’s shirts, while everyone who participates in modern American poetry watches.balloon pop outlaw black is well worth your twelve dollars, is what i'm saying.