Friday, September 22, 2006

discovering Annie Finch amid a local deluge     [book note]

Okay, it can be admitted I'm a strange person at times. Morning anyway found me (after little sleep) wandering around downtown, perching myself at the DuPont Circle Starbucks pre-sunrise, jotting poems; later wandering into the big Borders Books on L Street NW -- a place I visit but rarely. At 8-something in the morning, they were anyway up and ready for business, except one noted the unusual sounds of water. Dishwashing in the cafe? No, some kind of local deluge. I wanted to go down [some dozen green-carpeted stairs] and wander amid the poetry books. "Poetry?" the helpful but concerned manager-type inquired. "I think I can let you down there." If I had asked for a section more directly in the line of water (History perhaps?), it would likely have elicited a No. As I seemed to convey a sense of customarly care (or some-such), and Poetry was technically (merely) adjacent the helter-skelter of dripping water and functionaries mopping and bucket-placing . . . I got a Pass.

And that's where I more properly connected with Annie Finch. Though I've yet to read any of her books through; -- I vaguely think I've run into her name and perhaps read a few lines in recent years, but hadn't gotten a very particular impression till (first) reading Ron Silliman's remarks [from Oct.13, 2002 -- where have I been?](thanks to a link from K. Silem Mohammad's "Notes on (Dis)Quietude and the Post-Avant" [in this case filching his phrase "school of disquietude" rather than a whole line]. . . I'd lately found and filched from Finch's "Courtship" poem (for my Pantoum sequence, which mostly borrows a single line from an antecedent source as jumping-off point and homing abode of final, long boomerang). But here, amid the pleasant enough aquatic ambience (one of the Border-guys said to another something about this happening every year, due to something about "a water main" . . . ??? hinting at a mix of Kafka with Tarkovsky), I looked into Finchian essays, particularly her few-page musings on "Langpo, Pomo and Newfo" [if memory serves; I've not yet shelled out for the Michigan U. Press poets-on-poetry tomelet: The Body of Poetry], read it through (along with other such), and felt myself in belated discovery of a poet who shares some traits (I will hazard to claim) with yours truly: involving (e.g.) the paradoxical circumstance of feeling conceptually more keyed into intellectual underpinnings of the experimentalists, while yet pushed by innate sensibility in a direction exploring structures and devices with hoary premodern underpinnings: such as rhyming and metrical formalism, as a field of experimentation (as Finch ably argues), even though (through the fiats and fluxes of 20th/21st literary historical circumstance) scarcely perceived or imagined as such by many of our more interesting writers, at (as they say) the present juncture.

Perhaps more on such after a time. This merely to record the happy discovery. Rachel Dacus has been telling me some of the newer-gen formalists are no pushovers, in terms of spark of the language crackle, or crack of the consciousness pop (one might as well hazard semi-balderdash if not to say quasi-glosolalia, when at this turn of the postscriptive prose-dash sprint [in short, merely, I jot in haste]; -- albeit let me qualify and say I'm significantly paraphrasing Rachel's observation). It seems, she's right. I want to dig up K. Silem Mohammad's work too, not to mention more of Annie's work proper (beyond the unusually engaging self-explicatory prose).


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