Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I indulged myself tonight with the purchase of two books and a lit mag. Gosh, I must seemed like a spoiled little brat getting new books every day. I’ve always been addicted to buying toys, though. In the long run, I think it’ll work out better than a lifetime of buying drugs all the time.

Reading a poem by Peter Gizzi the other day sent me longing for his work again. I reviewed his last book for Pleiades a while back, but I still hadn’t gotten my hands on his earlier books. So, tonight in the St. Mark’s Bookshop, while waiting for a friend, I happened to see the rest of his oeuvre, ARTIFICIAL HEART (1998) from and PERIPLUM AND OTHER POEMS from the excellent English poetry press Salt (perhaps they are to the English what Graywolf is to us, though maybe Salt’s a bit more edgy). It’s too much to take in all at one time, but I just couldn’t help myself—I needed a reward for my hard week of work.

I’ve come to love a number of things about Gizzi’s work. First the blending of musical and mechanical language. The two fight each other only to end up harmonizing in a way that perfectly evokes the overlap of registers in the contemporary urban or suburban environment where there are flowing trees next to dirty above ground subway tracks, etc: “abundant refreshment/ in the circuit// of this system.” The other thing I love is that the poems are rarely perfect. Sometimes they’re lumbering, awkward, too big for their tight pants, which provides a much needed break from too-slick surfaces. And they’re often deeply earnest, sad and sweet. For a stunning love poem, look at “It’s raining in Deflt” (I think) from SOME VALUES OF LANDSCAPE AND WEATHER.

I also grabbed the new issue of American Letters & Commentary, with poems by my dear friend Penelope Cray (who reviews Arielle Greenberg in the next Octopus), Samuel Amadon (who also has a review in the next Octopus), Mary Jo Bang, DA Powell, Danielle Pafunda, John Isles and a heap of others.


Matthew Thorburn said...

Hey, what do you know. I was in St. Mark's tonight too. I picked up a copy of Crazyhorse.

By the way, if you're angling for more new books, you might want to check out the Poets House book sale on Friday....

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that your post makes an interesting correlation between Gizzi and pants. Too often, pants are overlooked...think about our culture's shoes and shirts required policies. Nothing about pants. I've found that wearing pants (different types) or not wearing pants can have profound effects on my poetics as well as my status as a civically responsible citizen. All too often, we take pants for granted...they keep us out of trouble and protect our genetalia from cold, to name but two advantages. Correlating Gizzi with pants makes sense for many reasons, although I think pants general offer more utility than Gizzi (unless, of course, Gizzi himself offered to function as pants for someone). Gizzi's work as pants, on the other hand, begins to give pants some much deserved recognition in a critical light (if only social recognition could follow so logically from literary criticism...if only!) and, plus, it is just plain fun to envision Gizzi's poems running around as tight-pants-wearing metrosexuals.

Love your reviews.