Loads of Learned Lumber

Sunday, January 24, 2016

G. C. Waldrep, _Testament_

TRUTH TO TELL, I read Adorno's Noise because it is one of the three texts (the others being Lisa Robertson's Magenta Soul Whip and Alice Notley's Alma, or the Dead Women) that this book began as an "exploration of and response to," as a concluding note explains.

I have several favorite contemporary poets, and Waldrep has been one of them for years. I hope to write about this book for a more reputable blog, so rather than start gushing here, I will limit myself to the observation that, like most of my other favorite contemporary poets, Waldrep takes chances with form, is intellectually stimulating, and  is occasionally baffling--odd as this may sound, I can't love a poet who does not sometimes confuse the bejeezus out of me--and adds a fourth quality I rarely encounter in company with the first three: he pays attention to music.

Lot of contemporary poets do pay attention to music, of course.  They just happen to be poets who do not much appeal to me in other ways.

And it does seem that music is a kind of antiquated bourgeois ornament, I suppose, a fetishizing of vowel sounds and metrical devices, a distraction from the matters of greater public moment to which Harryman, Robertson, and Notley, among others, call our attention.  I understand poets deciding to dispense with it. And if Waldrep was mellifluous and only that, I would enjoy him, but he would hardly be a favorite. That he can maintain intellectual rigor and be mellifluous, however, places him in a very sparsely populated category.

I just opened the book at random, and found this:

In the scaffold of the wound
love's heart lies, many-throated messenger.
We are hopeless idiolects, winter vowels
mute in the biceps. Carpe diem,
more petty inscriptions on the abdominal wall
drumming in its constituent dusts.

Now, I may not be confident about what this compounding of love, language, and anatomy adds up to, but any poem with phrases like "hopeless idiolects" and lines like "drumming in constituent dusts" is one I am willing to ponder for a very long time.

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