B and I are just back from a whirlwind trip to Dallas, where we visited my family. It was a very busy, and very good trip. But, as anyone who has held the formidable COLLECTED POEMS OF TED BERRIGAN knows, it is, unlike my tiny toothpaste, not travel-size. So, wanting to continue my little exploration of second wave NY school poems, dork that I am, I bought THE SELECTED POEMS OF ALICE NOTLEY (talisman house, 1993), which easily slips into a carry-on bag.
Understand that this is not the kind of work that I usually gravitate to--tend to favor neat stanzas and a sort of mythic tone a la Merwin or something--but I am really enjoying pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Along with the poems "January," this is my favorite so far in the Notley book (it's actually on the page after "January" ends:
The late Gracie Allen was a very lucid comedienne,
Especially in the way that lucid is shining and bright.
What her husband George Burns called her illogical logic
Mad a halo around our syntax and ourselves as we laugh
George Burns most often was her artful inconspicuous straight man.
He could move people about stage, construct skits and scenes, write
And gather jokes. They were married as long as ordinary magic
Would allow, thirty-eight years, until Gracie Allen's death.
In her fifties Gracie Allen developed a heart condition.
She would call George Burns when her heart felt funny and fluttered
He' give her a pill and they'd hold each other till the palpatations
Stopped, just a few minutes, many times and pills. As magic fills
Then fulfilled must leave a space, one day Gracie Allen's heart fluttered
And hurt and stopped. George Burns said unbelievably to the doctor,
"But I still have some of the pills."
That last line shouldsignalingent singnaling the continuation of the previous line, which blogger most likely won't preserve.
Anyway, what I love about this poem is the combination of detachmnaiveteldlike naievity, and emotional vulnerability. The language of the first stanza verges on the scientific, but its last line, about the halo, has a vulnerable, childlike quality. Then there's the strange bit about magic in the second stanza, which totally surprises me. The final stanza is so sweet and sad, and yet also amazed and flat in its delivery. It's really a very wonderful poem.
Well, tomorrow's my big day--my first two feature articles for Publishers Weekly come out. One is a profile of Kay Ryan. The other, and this is the one I'm nervous about, is a sort of layman's introduction to the online poetry scene. This is our one yearly issue about poetry. I interviewed Ron Silliman, Josh Corey, Zach Schomberg, folks at the Academy of American Poets, Poetry Daily, and a heap of others. I wonder what you'll all think. Will you rake me over the coals? You should be able to access the articles through our website: www.publishersweekly.com.