Thursday, September 24, 2009

Speak to me of prose and tone and humour

There are several surrealist prose books out of Les Figues of late which I have enjoyed immensely. Stan App's God's Livestock Policy, Axel Thormahlen's A Happy Man & Other Stories, and this little bilingual gem, Voice of Ice, from Alta Ifland. It seems that people's resistance to Flarf and Conceptual poetry mirrors, in a way, my resistance to avant-lyric and lyric modes, which is to say that I feel they often aren't saying much, relying instead, as Lyn Hejinian notes, on nostalgia. I want to say the euphoria of nostalgia. That would make me sit up and take notice. Question: doesn't lyric poetry has a tendency to revel in aural play, to swagger its poetic craft much the same way folks accuse avant garde poetry of doing? And yes, there is the matter of sentiment. But then perhaps all poetry can tend that way. Isn't Kenny Goldsmith's Fidget just a little sentimental? I mean what are we talking about here?

In any case, it seems to me Ifland is saying something. Doing something too. It makes me ponder the difference between image and metaphor. Metaphor seeming to conjure up a pre-pentium era (getting there, getting there, it's coming, the image is coming, wait for it, wait for it...)

Whereas metonymy of course: snap.

Here from "Ink Shadows:" "Shadows of violet ink are sitting at my table, with crows of hot iron on their trembling heads. They are helping themselves, tearing apart the roasted meat with their long nails..." There is, as there is in most prose poems, the element of the surreal, and the echo of the fable. In "The mother," for example, "her pockets overflowing with pebbles, the mother surveyed her domain. She had a pitiless gaze and her crocodile tail..."

Prose poems tend to be less precious than the lyric turn--though in fact Ifland's poems (or prose pieces?) do veer toward the precious as well, just to give my neat categories a challenge. In "Nightfall" we get a very dark image at the outset:
From my left arm to my right an inky film extends, and in between, like a teardrop of golden light, hangs my gallbladder, which I've managed to extract. Night pours through the open window in inky waves..." (19).
Later darkness paints, stars leave traces, but the traces are of salt, silence drops and night falls.

The collection ends with a poem about Death.
An Arab friend once told me: "I find so reassuring the thought that one day I will be no longer."

This is a very natural way of seeing things: but who among us Westerners could say this? We fight against death and we fight against life.

There is somewhere a company that transforms the body of your dearly departed into a diamond. You can take it everywhere with you, even when he is gone. "Nothing is lost in nature, everyting is transformed," we have been taught in school.

Even death is no longer final.

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