Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Went to the UC Berkeley library yesterday to check out my first book, The Arcades Project. Surprised to find it available, since I am told that it often occurs that books are read at this university, for reasons of compunction and professional standing and even, yes, pleasure or edification. For someone who hasn't had borrowing privileges at a good library in over four years (InterLibrary Loan is great and all, but not the same as finding it on the shelves yourself), this was a romantic experience, even if you discount the fact that the stacks are gorgeously designed, a terraced, open floorplan with wells of sunlight doing a marvelous job of convincing me that I was not, in fact, underground. Someday I'll make a trip to Seattle and check out the Rem Koolhaas library but for now this one will do just fine.

Is all of this a longwinded way of saying that I find myself swooming over Ange's poems of reading and of libraries in Starred Wire (hear "start wire," as in start yer engines)? Well, yes:

The papercut's open, but we leave the library
as if it were a hotel in pale sun's off-season.

Nymphs and zephys are still working on the landscape,
ears are open loggias, enchantments defoliate;

but inside the library are year-round temperate climates
whose forests are like an afterlife of forests.

Money is changed often like the first metaphor
that's really more an afterlife of metaphor; or,

the library of botany crosses the library of demons.
A universe convenient to itself would not want opposite ends

to stay there, or a woman impregnated by a book
would never bear a real baby, as we have read.

("Flowers Grow Out of the Cracks in the Stacks")

I appreciate that The New Yorker decided to mention some poetry worth reading. Maybe they'll start publishing more of it, too, although who even sends poems to The New Yorker. Occasionally, after reading over one of my own poems that I'm very dissatisfied with, I'll think, so as to assuage, "well, maybe The New Yorker would want it." So I'm appreciative, but I don't really hear O'Hara in this book, unless by O'Hara they mean poems that occasionally take place in an urban environment and have very little truck with misery. Or, poems that find in aesthetic experience something more than this week's vocabulary exercises. That is, poems that can have an aesthetic experience. No, I hear Moore and, perhaps, Ashbery as well. O'Hara probably wouldn't have turned around and went back into the library. Maybe early O'Hara. But instead, here, patience encircling the poets' bouts of restlessness, an attention to the small and obscure and hyper-specific, and to description as a way of enlarging sensation, these are a few of the admirable traits that set this poetry apart from the equally admirable forward-moving exuberance of O'Hara. Luckily, I have a few months to consider with more leisure how this quirky, rice-grain precise, buoyant, learned but not pretentious poetry does what it does when it does it--for I shall review it for an upcoming issue of Xantippe.

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