Loads of Learned Lumber

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Srikanth Reddy, _Voyager_

I WAS JUST about convinced that Ronald Johnson's Radi Os was an astonishingly lucky fluke--that is, that there could not possibly be another great erasure poem--before I read this. Reddy has found not just one but three compelling poems in Kurt Waldheim's memoir, In the Eye of the Storm, three poems moreover that together make a even more compelling whole.

The title derives from there having been a message from Kurt Waldheim, at the time the secretary-general of the United Nations, on the 1977 Voyager space probe. The energy of the poem derives from the idea that Waldheim, who served in the Wehrmacht during W W II, may well have had insider knowledge of certain war crimes, and that knowledge, entirely scrubbed from the surface of his memoir, nonetheless may dwell within it, to be discovered by erasure.

And discover it Reddy does.  It took years, apparently (according to an online "note on process"), but the short, punchy lines of Book One, the blocky prose poems of Book Two, and the WCWilliams-like three-stairstep lines of Book Three find in The Eye of the Storm the confession it was assiduously not making. Sorry to resort to a cliché--so many poems are praised as a "deconstruction" of x or y--but here the term genuinely applies, as Waldheim's text is brought to utter the truth it sought to conceal.  An amazing accomplishment.

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