« previous entry | next entry »
Dec. 28th, 2005 | 06:56 pm
posted by: ex_josh_han in 2006_books
Recently Received: What Remains by Stuart Greenhouse
Selected by Brenda Hillman for the Poetry Society of America Chapbook series.
I think the Foetry fellow has Hillman spooked. I say that because it’s almost eery the way that she avoids Stuart’s name—and even the name of the chapbook—in her introduction. It’s kind of like, “I have no personal connection with this poet whatsoever. In fact, I even doubt his existence.” Her intro is so general and forgettable, which is a shame for poems that are so specific and haunting.
These poems provide what I’ve come to realize is the thing I most prize in a poem: a window onto a mind working itself through language. That may seem like a nice and abstract way of talking about lyric poetry, but it’s rare to see it practiced as it is here.
Consider these lines from “Preliminary Clasp:”
Gold in the eye, gold born every day. Worth.
What a water so fire to touch it
is to be drunk in called noble can’t,
with its pure appetite, touch, or
what dug from the earth is refined,
grows nothing, is soft, is reflective—
One can’t really find the place to cut off the excerpt it keeps building so, it keeps turning back upon itself. And what to call that “fire?” A visual pun? Whatever, the way it presents us with the word and thought of “fine” without ever saying it, the way that “fine” reappears lines later in “refined,” all of this seems both controlled and controlling.
The real center of the book for me is the long series of short lyrics entitled “My Lead Hat.” It bears the subtitle, “after two masters,” though I am unsure who these masters are. To my mind they are Merwin and Kafka. Imagine Merwin infused with Kafka’s acid and self-effacing wit. These poems aren’t afraid. They aren’t afraid to be funny or silly, and they aren’t afraid to be deadly serious, all while wearing their lead hat.
It takes the shape
from whatever strikes it
so I don’t have to
Haven’t you ever
mistaken a thing
Sometimes it tilts
to the left, and I circle,
or to the right, and I circle,
or back, and I wonder,
or forward, and I sleep.
Stunning stuff all around. Check it out.
The Poetry Society of America is selling the book as one of a four chapbook set, for $30, but Stuart might be able to hook you up with one if you drop him a line.