Saturday, July 23, 2005

Hmm. Since I've now heard this a few times, I suppose I should chime in vis-a-vis Tate and Young. In college, I worshipped these two guys, wanted to be them, read their books to tatters at the expense of other kinds of things I could have been reading. And perhaps for this reason, a personal reason, I can't really get into recent work by either one. Since The Worshipful Company of Fletchers, Tate seems on autopilot, virtually lobotomized-- a member not of the School of Quietude but as Jordan renames it, the School of Klonopin--and although I get that he's aiming for a it's-so-boring-and-dull-and-empty-it's-funny kind of humor, I ain't feeling it. Incidentally, I don't like most of Andy Kaufman either, so perhaps I lack the necessary brain centers for this kind of humor. With recent Young, I miss the ferocity and extemporaneity of Strike Anywhere, his ability to riff in wide orbits on the smallest and most petty and ridiculous of occasions. In all of his writing since, I get an eagerness to impress and a devicey, algorithmic goofiness. I do occasional find myself knocked down by a poem or two, but I feel sad, mostly, that he got so much attention for doing what comes so easily to him--goofing off in the back of the class. To my mind, Young's the class clown; Tate doesn't even show up to class. (When, as an undergraduate, I went, heart in hand, to petition to get into his workshop, he could only answer in two words: "Not possible.") If I had to choose, and I'd prefer not to, I'd take the early and middle Tate, from Oblivion Ha-Ha onto Fletchers--there's more punk-rock in Tate, more revisionary humor as opposed to humor about things we already find funny/annoying, more necessary and vital affront to what we expect(ed) from poetry. Young, on the other hand, seems to be operating within the bounds of a certain dignity and propriety. There may be more craft in Young, more verbal pizzazz and a more voracious imagination, but there's also that lemon-scent Pledge smell. Mary Ruefle, on the other hand, does everything Young does and more.

As for Vallejo, The Black Heralds has its brilliant moments--I enjoyed Eshelman's translation in the recent APR--but it's probably not the place to start. Read anything from Eshelman's translation of his posthumous poems "El hecho is que el llugar. . . (The fact is the place. . .") or "Nueve Monstruous" or anything in the immediate vicinity of these poems. "Tengo un miedo de ser. . . (I have a terrible fear . . ." [I don't have my book, so I may be misquoting.] Whenever I read these poems, I'm convinced that he's as good of a poet as they come--compassion, rage, dazzling intelligence--a completely original and oblique diction, corkscrew syntax, delicious exclamation points and too many dashes!--alternating between tortuous description and flat, plain declaration. He underwrites every bit of sentiment or directness that he conveys in those poems, emerging as it does out of the most gravelly, pixelated and visceral confusion. I find his lack of anxiety about big nouns--fear, time, love, desire and Co.-- refreshing.

No comments: