the tiny, the GZA, Will Edmiston
I find Peter Gizzi's aesthetic thoroughly engaging, but friendly, unassuming. Things fall into his poems & slip through. When he's on, the things slip through at the right trajectory, the precisely correct speed. It's a matter of balance, of the unaffected use of the the span of the poem as a canvas. So it somehow surprises me how influential his work is right now, considering that he doesn't really have a forceful ideology to his poems. A lot of the poetry I consider most exciting right now seems to be pushed forward by the hands of the GZA.
I was thinking about this while reading through the wonderful new issue of the tiny, which is full of amazing work & which you should really just go ahead & buy right here. I think this aesthetic is at its best when it does not rely on the slippery images to dazzle but sinks those images into the music of the poem. The best example of this in the tiny, better even than Gizzi's poems in the issue is the closing poem by Will Edminston, a poet whom I hadn't read before this poem. (Though he has a handful of poems in MiPoesis here.) I'm going to put the poem up in its entirety, if you don't mind:
everything capable of a fine cadence
butterfly dust left to float and blow through an orchard
the more I flake out about it
the more the entire thing regarding your hand is amazing
like, my stuff looks totally delicate and empty
with something kind of fucked at the bottom
and then through the cloud our hollows with tea
As an emotional landscape, a city portrait, this has an evocative set of images that spread out into an experience. I find the last line especially stunning. These imagistic moves are angularly offset by the talky, personal elements of the banal daily language. (is this the first f-bomb that has appeared on my blog? i think so) If I read the "Eugene" as a person, rather than the city most of the experience remains the same but then the poem grows more sad in regards to the emptiness of the "stuff."
What makes this poem exciting to me is the way Edmiston settles these images & this language into the music of the poem. The rhythm of the first line accentuates the "ca"s so beautifully that without the line having a solid image or even a singular noun I feel fully entered into the poem. And this openness of meaning in the first line runs smack into the romantic-yet-creepy image of the butterfly dust in midair. Here the line modulates each sound from one word to the next. By the third line begins to bring in the classic NY-school conversational phrasing, but the music of the poem is what I'm looking for to propel me.
It is through the music of the poem that the first line begins to cohere the poem more fully--the "fine candence" is the rhythm & rhyme of the poem, which correlates to the potential for this kind of harmonious order in either the city or the relationship with the person.
It is this set up that allows me to buy into the excluding move of the "thing about your hand," which seems like such an inside joke-like experience that I as a reader am entirely incapable of accessing it. And yet this potential for a fine cadence has been demonstrated in the music, allowing me to consider how the whole hand thing creates potential backstories.
It is this marriage of the prosody & the content that I find especially exciting in this little whisp of a poem. When the speaker calls his "stuff" "totally delicate and empty" I'm reading the words differently, willing to see the phonemic strength of these throwaway words. In a small way Edmiston does the transformative poetic work of allowing me to understand these words as brand new packets of energy.
And then, you know, that last line pretty much rocks.