Saturday, August 18, 2007

Carla Harryman

Open Box, Carla Harryman, belladonna books, 2007

I heard Carla Harryman read at the Bowery last year with Heather Fuller, and that should have given me a heads up for this text. When I think of Harryman I think prose, or at least a prose line, something closer to Lyn Hejinian (they came to me in tandem...) than say, Rae Armantrout. Open Box couldn't be further from my expectations. "The page will not inflate/ lungs do," says Harryman, and then proceeds to give a finely tuned performance, each page featuring two, four-line stanzas, not metrical but lyrical propulsion. In the world of dissonant lyric/recombinant or otherwise, there is a line at which this propulsion either hits or misses. Difficult to decipher the why and how of it, but it exists, for this reader, and when it hits their is a tidal pull that flotsams my ear over all manner of syntactic and semantic leaps. Thus my pleasure at Harryman's "improvisations,"
Known by what it isn't
Rugs piled densely
In a water house of sound
Sorted by sound

A tongue tipping a fork
Blood off your hands
Banding 'bout the premises
With switched notes


No veracity here either
The subject has been lost
In a breed of deer
Unknown in these parts otherwise

Does not sing
Did not before or even in this small escapade
A yard
Escaped here
What constitutes meaning? What pull? What plummet? Where subject? Where I? Where the logic and why some logic where appears none? Who escaped and most importantly what veracity? (You can read more on Jacket...)

Tina Darragh's blurb suggests Joseph Cornell doing a can-can, and yes, that's it! This is physical poetry, performative and sculptural; this in fact IS a kind of lung inflating and re-inflating, or to be more oozingly lyrical, wings beating (you could see the poems on the page in that way if you need to see something so literal...). Terrific energy, terrific drive. There is a kind of linguistic fierceness (someone slipped something into the brownies...). And while I don't want to diminish the subversive aspects, I have to think that these poems must have been a lot of fun to write. Certainly they are a lot of fun to read.

On the heels of Juliana Spahr and Elizabeth Treadwell this collection reads like another windmill on the horizon...and I have Marcella Durand, Natalie Simpson, Jena Osman and Mary Burger all clamoring to get into the discussion...and they shall, slowly, as my wrist allows.

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