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12 August 2009 @ 04:46 pm
Crush, Richard Siken

I've decided books of poetry count.

I came to this decision mainly because this, uh, volume read more like an epic saga than poetry. There's a halfway house between modern poetry and modern literachure, and I feel Siken perhaps should have sought it out. (You know, the Thomas Pynchon V. Arundhati Roy Sanctuary of Flashbacking and Non-Linear Storytelling.) I ... don't feel any of these poems work too well as stand-alones, and they're all very much focused on the driving force of their existence - namely, Siken's relationship with the dude what died. I'm no expert on poetry - I'm no expert on anything, but the poetry I consider true, undiluted poetry is about the colours words can paint in your mind. One of my favourite ee cummings poems has this stanza:

how behind the doomed
exact smile of life's
placid obscure palpable
carnival where to a normal
melody of probable violins dance
the square virtues and the oblong sins

Like, what the fuck is that?! I don't know! And I don't care. Poetry is not quite music, it's not lyrics; poetry can make music all on its own. And while it can tell a story, it doesn't have to; I think that's where a lot of people go wrong. Poetry doesn't have to make sense, it just has to make.

My favourite poems were Primer for the Small Weird Loves and Saying Your Names. They made me choke up a little, because he really managed to convey a frantic sort of life-grief in both. I also had favourite lines in the other poems:

Tell me how all this, and love too, will ruin us.
These, our bodies, possessed by light.
Tell me we'll never get used to it.

(He likes wacky formatting, which is annoying because it conveys nothing extra. The only time I've seen it done well is in Ralph Fletcher's The Faithful Elephants. I didn't bother trying to reproduce it.)

We pull our boots on with both hands
but we can't punch ourselves awake and all I can do
is stand on the curb and say
about the blood in your mouth. I wish it was mine.

A man takes his sadness and throws it away
but then he's still left with his hands.

But angels are pouring out of the farmland, angels are swarming
over the grassland.
Angels rising from their little dens, arms swinging, wings aflutter,
dropping their white-hot bombs of love.

That was definitely a heart-hurty moment for me, there.

You're in a car with a beautiful boy,
and you're trying not to tell him that you love him, and you're trying to
choke down the feeling, and you're trembling, but he reaches over and
he touches you, like a prayer for which no words exist, and you feel your
heart taking root in your body, like you've discovered something you
don't even have a name for.

Dude is fixated on hands - there is hand metaphors all over the shop - and there's a few too many of the Meaningful Non-Sequiturs (example: That means it's noon. That means we're inconsolable.) That said, I liked it. I'm used to reading poetry in anthologies, with the best of one poet's work scraped up and presented all nicely. I will follow Siken's career with interest.

Helen and Mik, if you read this - and anyone else too - tell me what 'words burned' for you? I thought it was so interesting that Helen and I could look at the same poem and get something completely different, or nothing at all, out of it.

Previously, on Book Glomp 2009:
He Knew He Was Right, Anthony Trollope |The Bostonians, Henry James | For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway | For Esme - with Love and Squalor, JD Salinger | The Outsider, Albert Camus | The Princess Diaries: Ten out of Ten, Meg Cabot | The Vicar of Bullhampton, Anthony Trollope | Molesworth, Geoffrey Willans | Villette, Charlotte Bronte | The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James | The Way of All Flesh, Samuel Butler | Cecilia, Fanny Burney | The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger | The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark | Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut | Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann | Siddhartha, Herman Hesse | The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga | The Duke and I, Julia Quinn | Brave New World, Aldous Huxley | North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell | Cider with Rosie, Laurie Lee | Catch-22, Joseph Heller | Bright Shiny Morning, James Frey | Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck | The Demon's Lexicon, Sarah Rees Brennan | The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton | jPod, Douglas Coupland | 'Are these my basoomas I see before me?', Louise Rennison | Faro's Daughter, Georgette Heyer | Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman | The Accidental Sorcerer, K.E. Mills | Ethan of Athos, Lois McMaster Bujold | V., Thomas Pynchon | The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway | The Dragon Keeper, Robin Hobb | Orlando, Virginia Woolf | The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath | Snuff, Chuck Palahniuk
the claw-foot Lady: [stock] goodnight room! goodnightsoftlyforgotten on August 13th, 2009 12:23 am (UTC)
Oh, man, okay. The thing is, I have no emotional distance from Crush whatsoever -- it's the book that I carry around in my bag with me because I honestly DO NOT LIKE going anywhere without it; I threw away a lot of marks in my final year of English doing a comparison study of it with Wuthering Heights, because examiners really don't like you doing non-traditional texts but I wanted to; I think I know most of it off by heart now.

Umn, okay, so really, all of the 'words burned' and continue to burn for me, and I know a lot of that is about circumstance and where I was when I first read it, and who it was with, and the fact that there's a couple of lines in it that my best friend texts me every time I have a bad day, but I also think it's genuinely brilliant, genuinely powerful poetry. It's not hit and miss for me like so many 'great' poets are -- Margaret Atwood, Carol Ann Duffy, even Ted Hughes -- and there's not a line in it that I skip over.

It's interesting what you say about the formatting, because generally I hate that kind of thing too, but I think it worked in this for me, especially with the progression of the narrative (Tell me how all this, and love too, will ruin us -----> Dear Forgiveness, I saved a plate for you./Quit milling around the yard and come inside ----> A man takes his sadness and throws it away/but then he's still left with his hands ----> I can't go through with it./I just don't want to die anymore). I don't think it's the strongest feature of the text by any means, but I can feel what Siken was reaching for and I think a lot of the time it does make sense, the line breaks are there for a reason, and where they pick up is for a reason, too. (Although possibly, again, I have just read it too many times now to be able to like the idea of it being anywhere else.)

Umnnnn, I'm going to shut up now, I think. But also: You Are Jeff, oh man oh man.

(OH NO WAIT! I see discussions about Bukowski going on down there! Let me just throw in a thought: >:| )
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: Bollywoodscoradh on August 13th, 2009 10:35 pm (UTC)
NOW I REALLY WANT TO SEE HOW YOU COMPARED IT WITH WUTHERING HEIGHTS. The book that annoyed me in that it was told entirely through pointless flashback, as I recall...

I also think it's genuinely brilliant, genuinely powerful poetry.

I'll definitely give you powerful. I'll even give you brilliant, for some of it. But...

... when I was eight or so, I borrowed a book from a teacher and forgot to give it back and then, like, moved countries. (Oops!) It was Sylvia Brown's autobiography; she is a 'psychic'. At the time being able to predict the future seemed a totally valid talent to me. In the book, she explains how people have a life blueprint and veering off it causes misery (in which case I'm not even on the page it was drawn on) and also how there are forty-five main life 'themes'. I still have the Xs I marked on them as a kid, deciding I was 'aesthetic pursuits' with perhaps a secondary 'lawfulness' (I wanted to be Ally McBeal). Now I know that if I have a life theme, it's 'Irritant' - yes, actually an option! All I do is find fault. Apparently others are supposed to learn patience and tolerance from being around us Irritants, so - go to?

... which is to say, I deeply envy you and Helen and everyone's talent to just love things. I hate loving anything, because all it ever leads to is hurt and disappointment. So you have no distance from this book that means so much to you. I'd swap places in an instant.

No love for Bukowski? But I'll still try to read him, because my talent is, after all, for endless criticism. :D
the claw-foot Lady: [rs] grace under pressure;softlyforgotten on August 14th, 2009 07:33 am (UTC)
Man, I won't send you the essay, because it's terribly, terribly written, but it's all about how after their loved one died, Heathcliff turned to a general sort of destruction (viz. RUINED EVERYBODY ELSE'S LIFE) and Siken turns to self-destruction. Um, I was kind of maudlin, that year. I kind of have a love/hate affair with Wuthering Heights, in that I kind of love the writing of it to pieces -- despite annoying flashbacks, I agree -- but hate every single person in it. Except Hareton. Oh, Hareton.

Aw man, that makes me kind of sad for you (not in a condescending way, I promise!). Maybe one day you'll be able to find something you love? It'll take you by surprise, and all you'll be able to do is post HOSHIT in huge caps in yr LJ. It'll be brilliant. <3

Ughhhhh, Bukowski. I have this kind of... I like a couple of poems, but mostly there's this song by Modest Mouse which sums up my opinion of him PERFECTLY. The lines especially relevant go: "yeah, I know, he's a pretty good writer/but God who'd wanna be/God who'd wanna be/such an asshole?" It's awesome. :D