Saturday, August 13, 2005

OK, but what's not so obvious from Jonathan's post here is whether or not he enjoys Sarah Manguso's poems. Or has the term avant-garde become--as some of us suspected during the latest flare-up of the AG wars--simply a fancy evaluative term. I will say that Manguso's poetry is distinctive and original, and really, truly funny--as much as it belongs to a tradition less associated with the typical lineages than the aphoristic/parablesque traditions of Nietschze, Kafka, Russell Edson, early James Tate, etc. (When we all have the same parents, it's called incest! Or religion.) There are lots of people working in this mode today, and few are as good, or have as much range, as Manguso. She's better than recent Tate, much better than Dean Young, and as good as Mary Ruefle. And for me--now I'm getting into trouble--she points out what's missing (speed, range, knives) in younger writers like Arielle Greenberg and Sabrina Orah Mark.

She also has the distinction of being utterly committed to her vision, such that every time I read some of her prose I feel it has very little to do with the particular writer or subject she's ostensibly writing about, and everything to do with Manguso. I mean, I'm always furiously shaking my head and writing letters-to-the-editor. I find her sort-of conservative and close-minded in her way, but no less reactionary than some of the people on "the other side" of the fence, whom she accuses of writing "encrypted banalities." But she has the courage of her convictions, and unless it's a very small party, she's not towing any kind of line. Plus, umm, the poems are good! I didn't love all of The Captain Lands in Paradise with its overlays of Romantic cliches of discovery/invention and occasionally Casio-quality dream-effects. But everything I've seen of hers since has pretty much blown me away. The recent poems are more committed to poignant acts-of-thought, rangier in diction and mood, and brimming with intriguing situations. I like the custody arrangement/rapprochement she's worked out in the bitter divorce between narrative and image; it's not something many are doing. For my money, her poems in The Hat were some of the stand-outs in a compendium of stand-outs.

I'll give Jonathan the Kasey Mohammed item. Yes, genius. Always? Who cares.

Well, Jane wanted to hear what some of us really think. Get yer hackles up!

This will conclude our monthly test of the Emergency Honesty System. Bye.

1 comment:

Laura Carter said...

Thanks for posting this, Jasper.