Three nice poety things about Catherine Daly’s Vauxhall
1. From “Art Art Art”:
Is art a way?
—Oh no, more poetry about poetry, more art about art. But yes, art is a way. Yes. OK? It was a rhetorical question, and we knew the answer. Is it the way? No, it is a way. (When is art not a way? When it’s away.) As a way, it is a creation of truth; by the way, it is a well of light. Well? Right? Isn’t it? Let’s say we call truth the satisfying connection of A to B. It is satisfying, in a way that we call “true”. Because we can connect it, which is like being able to explain it. This doesn’t tell you anything about this book. This is a nice poety thing about poetry. But this particular book is relentless and baldfaced about its drive to connect. It is a manual of connections, or an exhortation to connection, written in slinky steps.
2. I have been reading rhetorical manuals lately, starting with Aristotle’s On Rhetoric. There is this idea that the orator should have a mental commonplace book of maxims, of ideas or phrases which “everyone knows”. The orator takes one of these ideas – “Life’s a game; play it as it lays” – and drops it into the situation at hand, thus reassuring the audience that its native wisdom is respected. The better orator can twist the maxim, put new wine into the old skin, and get a new win from the old skein. Or from the old scheme? Vauxhall is the better orator working without any situation at hand, and weaving with whatever tattered yarn you offer. Like, what, golf:
Anything with a ball
any game Life’s a game,
lends itself to puns.
fun golf is serious.
Play it as it lays,
“A young woman with long hair and a short
white halter dress walks…”
Golf is a game where the ball lies poorly
and the players well. People lie.
N.B. People do lie! Are the long (hair) and the short (dress) of it as seductive as a well-turned phrase that revolves around opposites? Even if it’s about golf?
3. But: Vauxhall is named after the long-gone gardens, and if we don’t want to ascribe too much truthiness to this rambling bramble of words and ideas, to the constant flickering of connections, well, we can enjoy the “very pretty contrived plantation”. It makes for a nice walk. But then again, is it the walk, or what we do when we walk? Golf is a good walk spoiled, after all, but some people seem to like it. Then again, people lie! And consider, from “Hook and Ornament”:
You’re coming to town.
How still we see it lie.
Chris Piuma spent many years in Portland, Oregon, where he helped run Spare Room and its ongoing reading series. He now studies medieval languages in Toronto. His poetics blog, Buggeryville (buggeryville.blogspot.com) still exists. His small and psuedoephemeral chapbooks, Exercises in Penmanship and [On January thirty-first...] were published. He takes requests.