Loads of Learned Lumber

Friday, January 7, 2011

Tony Tost, _Invisible Bride_

THIS HAS BEEN sitting on my shelf for what must be seven years or so -- why I finally picked it up, I do not know, but turns out it's excellent. All prose poems -- and they really seem to be prose poems, not "short shorts," not lyrical essays, but poems. Why is that? Well, let's say the poems conjure up their own space, their own time, seem to belong to a universe of their own that lies on a tangent to ours...

...a lyrical essay might do as much, perhaps? True. Inserted into my copy is a brief interview with Tost, who cites as influences not only a long list of poets and a few musicians (including the Kinks, good for him), but also examples of what he calls "internally-charged and/or visionary prose": Keats's letters, A Season in Hell, Alexander Theroux's Primary Colors, Cyril Connolly's (!) Unquiet Grave, Ben Marcus's Age of Wire and String (good for him again), Joe Wenderoth's Letters to Wendy's.

People are still coming across The Unquiet Grave these days... good to know.

So, um, yeah, they could be lyrical essays, but they unscroll with a certain intuitive illogic that I myself associate with poetry. It's also fun, if I can call it so, that one doesn't know quite what the structure of the book is. Some poems have titles; some simply occupy the top of the page. Should one respond to two or three untitled pieces on succeeding pages as related, or not? There is no table of contents, but there are six sections -- are they six sections of a whole? Or is each section a whole of some kind? The three texts of section 6 seem to belong together; perhaps the texts of section 5 do as well, although none too insistently. The texts of section 3 initially seem to go together, but then seem not to. For some reason, I found this tending-to-cohere-then-refraining-from-cohering not irritating, but delightful. Patterns would kaleidoscopically align, then, with a quick shake, disappear.

One more indication of the contemporary flourishing of poetry -- I can discover a great new book of poetry without even leaving my office.


Thomas said...

It's nice to find another kindred spirit. I've been exploring the Tost/Connolly connection for some time on my blog.

Tony wrote a poem a long time ago called "I Am Not the Pilot". I think it is obviously a reference to Palinurus.

See this post for some of my thoughts. Or search for "bride", "palinurus", "tost", etc.

Thomas said...

"I Am Not the Pilot"