Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Three Joshuas: Beckman, Clover and Corey

Every time I see Shake, by Joshua Beckman, I can't help picking it up. And moreover, once I begin to read, it's difficult to put it down. So to with Joshua Clover's the totality for kids. As for Joshua Corey, his latest is reviewed here by Paul Foster Johnson. Shake is one of those loping narratives of musing quotidian asides. There is something compelling about the energy here:
Headlights in daylight.
Our first exchange was Arizona crossing California.
Pulling out the water, floating down the river,
whistling, disappointed and riverless.
Not caring for a new motorcycle and walking all the way back.
The lines aren't working as hard as I would normally want to see and yet I find them satisfying, completely. Later on in the same poem:
Lizard lizard go away, come again some other day.
I am fashioning the world's largest sand garden, for pride,
for the respect of my family,
and for contemplation's sake.
The moon will rise over it.
The old will crease it with their cadillacs.
The lizards, at night will be entertained by my effort.
I will miss work and reproduce the feeling of driving alone.
I will rake with out music.
I will ignore the military, their planes passing, and they will ignore me.
These lines...these sentiments, there is just something completely inhabitable about them, a pleasant stretch in lines like "The old will crease it with their cadillacs." But perhaps my favorite part of Shake is the poem sequence "Let the people die." Here the language play is as satisfying as the content, more powerful, direct, and damn that dirty word again, but lucid:
A rake in the garden. The garden
is rotting. The house and the yard.
The garden is rotting. A rake in
the pond. The pond and the swimming.
The house and the yard, the garden
and pond...
and later, on page 44
I like your handsome drugs. Your pleasant
drugs. Your frozen fingernails. Your painted
fingernails. That man screamed out, "The
karate chop of love," before tackling that woman.
The breeze. Your sort of quiet happy voices...
There are some aspects of this sequence that are disturbing and I'm not sure why, not why they're disturbing, but what affect the disturbing wants from a reader:
The dead girl by the beautiful Bartlett.
I'm sad. I make horrible sentences.
A woman alone in the park waves. The water.
The dead girl by the beautiful Bartlett.
Put down the cell phone. I'm sad. The waves.
The images hitting like waves at a breakwater, and all I, as a reader want to do is stand and stare at the foam and roar, its repetitions meditative, disturbing, slightly dangerous, but ultimately in check.
Clover's the totality for kids is more cerebral, though satisfying in a similar way. There is more direct textual engagement here, more delay, more visual and textual play, more popular references, or perhaps just more pointed ones. Still, there is a lightness to both of these collections. A skimming of things that perhaps accounts for my continued skirting and darting. What do we want from contemporary poetry? One measures the distance from lucid to cerebral. One pulls at verse and wants a certain amount of give. One wants an immediacy, but one also wants a sense of having earned one's aloofness. Candor, not merely arduous. Must we be able to articulate everything? Must one know exactly what it is about a collection that pleases one? I'm not sure. In any case, there's something here that attracts, something that keeps bringing me back to these texts.

I'll give the last word to Clover from "What's American About American Poetry?"
They basically grow it out of sand.
This is a big help because otherwise it was getting pretty enigmatic.
Welcome to the desert of the real,
I am an ephemeral and not too discontented citizen.
I do not think the revolution is finished.
So during these years, I lived in a country where I was little known.
With the thunder of the Gods that protect the Icelandic tundra from advertising,
Great red gods, great yellow gods, great green gods, planted a the edge of the
speculative tracks along which the mind speeds from one feeling to another,
from one idea to its consequence
Past the proud apartment houses, fat as a money bag.
And the third Joshua? That post will be added shortly.

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