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Finding the Lyric

In the April issue of Poetry David Orr looks at a few books thru the filter of public or private poetry, of what gets across successfully, etc. One he looks at is The Cloud Corporation by Timothy Donnelly. I immediately picked up the book as being alert-minded perhaps a year ago, browsed it in no particular order and planned to come back to it. Reviews are good for that sort of thing, not just alerting to things you might want to buy, but actually read as well (which is kind of the bigger point, bankruptcy set aside for the moment.) In Donnelly’s “The New Hymns”, this except strikes Or and me:

[…] I don’t want to have to
locate divinity in a loaf of bread, in a sparkler,
or in the rainlike sound the wind makes through

the mulberry trees, not tonight. Listen to them carry on
about gentleness when it’s inconceivable
that any kind of amount of it will ever be able to

balance the scales.

Meaningfulness-fatigue. Tenderness-tiredness when everything is delicately broken. The sugar-coating for cyanide. Isn’t it cute as an M&M when in a pink coat? Ironically the poem puts itself carefully, in sound and syntax into that place of complaint. The overprocessed order of planned as an effective garden of reveals which is made poignant by the chaos and desire to torch the lot; The tension is there.

There’s something well-said in please don’t ask yourself to pull something profound out of a loaf of bread. Just cut it. Just eat. Why do we ask from the ambiant world something telling? Our minds want order. Too much disjunctive is as distressing as too much piercing the nose with a ring to lead us by.

As Orr mentions of C.D. Wright, too far one way and the powerfulness of the story is undercut, made flat and banal. The writer’s hand interferes when it jumps too much or stays unnaturally steady and smooth as a orchestral conductor.

The sweet spot is a moving target. When life tastes bitter, it changes the sweetness of sweet. When life is tranquil we may tolerate much more and have an appetite for lurches.

I have a problem with the holiness of bread, so to speak.

While every moment of life is a practice of meditation, or learning to re-enter detachment, to move silently and with care among objects and animals alike, another room in the head strips the beds of sheets of meaning, would rather dump out the mattress itself and lie on the floor as an ascetic, only content to deny there is anything outside the illusion, a mono-universe of denial, pooh-poohing the multi-verse of relative perceptions and squabbles among the senses and the emotional wings that would want to impose meaning on anything and everything. It is being indiscriminate but worse, it’s not paying attention to the vast neutrality of black matter of the universe, omitting the majority.

But why not speak of what seems to matter, what seems to be important, rather than just play with materials? It seems a waste to waste of life on constructing fancies that aren’t expanding our understanding of systems. “Put stuff in your poems” asJoseph Millar said. Life is enough fluff. Food distribution is key on this world but so is accurate information. As much as i love dadaism, it seems a cop out if more than just blowing off steam, as much as any self-involved love story while pivotal times spin the hands.

At the same time, consciously chosen stuff can be so dreary and expected. Contrived content, suitable for a particular point and audience, pitched thru a known world view, can do for conversation and prose. Shouldn’t poetry be on a longer leash? Gizzi runs long on the leash, twisting about from this hierarchical emotive linear narrative that we are so stuck on. Absurdity, non-sequitur, random but aesthetically pleasing juxtapositions, something a little more shaken up rather than mildly stirring…

We must each define for ourselves what is worth saying, safe to say, risky to say.

To write a lyric verse is to be sentimental, or risk the company of. Feelings impose themselves. They are easy. Mind is evasive. Feelings there are entirely too many of in too many places; overstocked in opposition to self. My ascetic doesn’t like the soft-minded vulnerability of emotionally provocative, that hopefulness that will inevitably be dashed. My ascetic abides the monkey-phantoms using the back as a merry-go-round but won’t throw them real bananas. Much is to be ignored. Nihilism is close to truth, except that there is no platonic truth, that being a fanciful bit of illusion as well.

Yet ascetic admits, the body is gratified by something that makes an orderly, internally consistent, resolved artifact that observes and somehow in inexplicable subtle ways, moves some centre of breathing to more centred.

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  1. Nice Pearl.

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