Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Reading James Schuyler
Reading James Schuyler just now, a poet I usually admire, and finding myself terribly disappointed that I'm terribly disappointed. Where would he be without the weather? Where would we all? I just have this horrible feeling he might have been just as happy (not writing poetry) if he had been allowed to do the weather in a colorful manner for New York, to just sit before a microphone and reel off imaginative adjectives largely confected from his concrete experience as an art critic (intentional art critic or no). Probably I just landed on the wrong poems. Because lines from his poems come to me all the time. Which means I find him useful in processing reality. So I should probably be more grateful. But he is persnickety as often as he is perceant. What is one to expect of one of the tawkiest of the New York School's tawkers, right? Then I switched to a more "experimental" contemporary poet and read a bunch of poetry that used to thrill me by this fellow, and that just bottomed out like a glacier. It wore its grandiosity like a Hermes scarf. Okay, it was a smart grandiosity. But it was still grandiose. Somehow he had become a grandee. A hidalgo or something. So I went to Oppen, a poet who I had been happy to revisit earlier this week, and he was the least disappointing of the three--more knuckle and less rings. (I had just had an encounter with wild deer and this had put me in mind of Oppen's "Psalm"--though I realize that poem's probably as much about poets and other grass-rooters as it is about deer.) Oppen is prosy, prosoid at times. I guess there's a virtue in that, in that at least it's grounded (like Reznikoff). Even if it does tend towards the journalistic at times. But Oppen can make these wild swerves around a single word, and that word suddenly appears newborn in the English language--though the word is maybe five hundred years, seven hundred years, old. And one can't help but be impressed that Oppen's Collected is only 256 pages and still manages to create an interesting dialogue with the culture which (presumably) engendered it. I'm reminded of Szymborska's funny quip when asked why her Collected was so slim: "I have a trash receptacle in my house." I guess there are poets who are hoarders and poets who are not. You can visualize Oppen's garage (if he ever owned one) and Szymborska's kitchen. Scrubbed, clean lines.