Monday, July 10, 2006

"An obvious riddle"         [boomerang]

Responsive to this poser:

What makes a good poem in the early years of the 21st century?

the question an obvious riddle
gives rise to an urge to consider
what we need now is depth or a little
yes the well knows but what of the river?
some will say what you want is a shiver
some may vote for a jot or a tittle
must the poem both solve and deliver
a question an obvious riddle?

According to Rachel Dacus, the question was formulated and set afloat by Richard Long, editor of 2River. You, too, can offer an answer, if so disposed. See here.

Must say I wasn't thinking of the name of Mr. Long's publication, when composing the above -- not having quite taken it in, nor being previously acquainted with it. Ah well (so to speak). And in fact, the river phrase in line 4 of my poem recollects a line from John Ashbery's memorable pantoum "Hotel Lautreamont" --

And what of older, lighter concerns? What of the river?

Regrettably, I don't locate any link to Ashbery's poem (for your perusal); I will, anyway, link to this review of the eponymous 1993 poetry book -- particularly since it's paired by the reviewer with W.S. Merwin's exquisite volume (from the same period) Travels. The reviewer in fact gives short (but appreciative) shrift to the Merwin book; and both that and Ashbery's are preceded by more detailed consideration of David Ferry's Gilgamesh. What to do? All three are worthy of note, no doubt. And the stream of time is fast passing . . .

I first encountered the Ashbery poem in 1990 -- when it appeared in The New Yorker Magazine. I was living and painting in Greenwich Village that year. I immediately borrowed a few lines from it -- including the one I quote here -- for a suite of paintings. The paintings were perhaps ultimately unexceptional; but the poetry continues in memory.


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