Loads of Learned Lumber

Friday, July 1, 2011

Ben Doller, _Dead Ahead_

HERE I WAS just writing that I have detected little of Paul Muldoon's influence among younger American poets (younger, that is, than I -- an alarmingly numerous class these days), and then the final poem in Doller's new volume not only rhymes ingeniously (e.g., adjacent/patient) and breaks at one point into sonnet form, but uses the peculiarly Muldoonian trick of using the last line of a section of a long poem to begin the next section.

The poem, "Period Style," is one of three excellent longer poems in the book, along with "Prescription Window"and "The Widow Ching Poems," and the three are strikingly different. "Prescription Window" alternates long lines and short lines while also alternating left justification and right justification to original and intriguing effect, and the Widow Ching sequence handles the theme of love well, and we can always use more of those.

Shall I sing
(I rarely sing)
of the patina
of promotion
the name unlike the name
that going
you gave


the promotion
that came relinquishing the fleet

The Lustre of True Instruction

Lovely, no? A little like Cummings filtered through Pound's Cathay.

Since Doller's last book, FAQ (see LLL, January 2010), was a programmatic work with fairly exacting constraints, Dead Ahead was bound to be more formally and tonally various, but I'm happy to see it's even more formally and tonally various than it had any need to be. Doller is now three-for-three in my book, definitely on my List of Reliables.

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