Monday, November 08, 2004

Monday, Monday

Wow. The Stillers crushed the Iggles. CRUSHED them. Like Oklahoma playing Rice, crushed them. For the first time in franchise history the Steelers never punted. They rushed for 250 yards. Bettis rolled downhill like pumpkin sized bowling ball through duck pins, like a bank safe sized boulder crumpling saplings, like a cresting wave of molten lava through a field of flowers, like a runaway tractor-trailer through parked Yugos, like an enraged rhino through an eye-high stack of cereal boxes at the supermarket. (Can you tell I'm excited?) Damn. I have to say it, this team has a legitimate shot at the Super Bowl. Big Ben was very good, although he did make one bad throw into double coverage while being blitzed. But he's the real deal. He's not just playing well for a rookie, he's playing well period. He has a really good shot at making the Pro Bowl. The last big tests for him will be the Washington and Baltimore defenses, we'll see. This kid is really special (and I'm not just saying that because I have 40 of his rookie cards). Ken Whisenhunt appears to be the real deal also, losing Mike Mularkey was a big plus for us. Whisenhunt calls much better plays in the red zone, and understands 'Steelers' football. (Line up and bang them in the mouth til they're bloody, then repeat three times.) i will post my reading of Lorde's 'Coal' later today. Got a reading at GW today, i think my voice is really coming back like it used to be in the old days at the EastSide, with the full first bass rumble under it. We'll see. Read 'Black Swan' again after seeing James Richardson's effusive review of it on the CC listserv. I know JR tends to get hyperbolistic, but he is a very smart dude, so i pulled it out and re-read it, just in case i had missed something. i hadn't, unfortunately. Lyrae's book is the epitome of what i don't like about 'Academic poems', good solid writing that mostly goes nowhere, and certainly nowhere interesting. She seems to have some self-acknowledged issues (like with black men for example) but they never get explored, mentioned but not explored. To me, there are too many missed opportunities to create tension. Like in the poem 'Leda', how is it that this piece doesn't begin:

"Imagine
the god/swan's neck
draped around her neck
like a white down noose"

Every other line in the poem could stay where it is and she would have had a very good poem, especially if the last two lines went:

warned of the snakes
and the gators

The poem would then read:

Imagine
the god/swan's neck
draped around her neck
like a white down noose
Imagine Leda black--
skinny legs peach-switch
scarred vaselined to gleaming
like magnolia leaves Imagine
a teenager hips asway like moss
switchin' down a dirt road
Florida orange blossom
water behind her ears
her tight sheath-skirt
azalea pink
A freemason Pentecostal
preacher's child
sent down from the city
to be raised by her grandmama
A girl assured her whole life
I never asked for you no-how!
I asked for your sister.
For years she walked straight
home from school past tempting
cresent lakes warned off
from sweet patches
of sugarcane
warned of the snakes
and the gators

The double 'warned' verbs at the end would then have matched the double 'Imagine' verbs at the beginning, and wouldn't have just been style improvements, but functional ones as well. But even without this alternate ending the poem would have been stronger if it opened with the swan image, which is where the resolution is headed. Another poem 'Roadside Stand' makes a similar mistake by not foregrounding the tomatoes in the first line. Why not open 'Getting Saved' with the lines:

Outside, parked beneath the glow of stained glass
the children of the saints fuck, fog the windows of deacon's cars.
Trembling I open my eyes , my mouth still moving Jesus, Jesus

This would grab anyone's attention and set up the poem's tension wonderfully, now the pun in the last line "I must be saved" is much more powerful. The opening line about dust could have gone anywhere in the poem, without changing how the poem works. Many poets are right-brained and either resist or miss the linear impulse in poems, in doing so they may gain some amount of personal pleasure, but gain it to the detriment of their poems. You can hit a baseball much further with a bat than with a cornstalk, the cornstalk may be more 'creative' or different, but . . .
Anyway we'll see, 'Black Swan' isn't a bad first book, strong technique, solid work with forms, and excellent description, plenty to build on.
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