Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Cucumber Sandwiches, 25 Poems and Three Poems

Richard Siken's pictures and stories posted on Aye, Wobot! bring me joy each week. The beautiful picture at left is "Cucumber sandwiches are stupid. " I quite enjoy cucumber sandwiches, myself. Nonetheless, I enjoy this picture, despite its anti-cucumber sandwich sentiments.

While unpacking I found: Tom Orange's 25 Poems (The Interrupting Cow, 2004) and Three Poems, Dan Bouchard's SupPo Self-Publish-or-Perish project from 2004.

Tom can correct me if my memory is off, but I think that 25 Poems began by using a poem generator that creates a continuous lineage of poems based on the theory of "natural" selection--visitors to the site click on the generated poems they like best and then the generator spits out the next poem. With conceptual poetry I'm always interested in how very difficult it is to eliminate a sense of the subject. But that could be me. Anyway I liked these when I heard them and I like them again upon unpacking. Lately I see lyric longing in everything:

sing through snow
between the unfathom-
able learned of
it and myself
though both growing
and dying are
long -- spare
now the hand and
fervent talk humming
and flowing on
here where we
imagine everything
to exist not frozen
but in blindfold

I often find that Dan Bouchard's work makes me think of urban pastoral (a la Williams?) Three Poems has birds, but they're fighting for crumbs on the cement, or singing in and around car wrecks or the sound of shattering glass. Or else the I is "Perched / up on the porch like a bachelor / or blackbird " watching the "headlights of minivans." And yes, the fact that there are lots of birds in the poems doesn't hurt either.

"Sound Swarms" is particularly lovely (I know I'm calling everything beautiful today and not being critical, but at least I'm writing about my contemporaries): "We live among men who won't mind / incinerating half the earth / for the idea they were right. Among / the gone half / Anyone who ever said it won't matter / when you're gone /will finally be right," all this while the narrator/I/voice of the poem is passed out or asleep in someone else's bedroom while there's a party in the living room.

After "Sound Swarms" we get a little story, "The Fancy Memory," in which I, Lincoln & Roosevelt are all at a wedding party. The conversation is pleasant and astonishing. The piece is funny: "I asked Lincoln how he felt about being called 'Captain.'" These poems also interest me because they're tonally different from Dan Bouchard's non-poetry work, which is often done in a satirical style that strikes me as being very New England-ish (why is that?). Tonal contrast is good. That satirical voice comes through in the notes to Three Poems:

"26 copies of this pamphlet, all lettered F, were printed on very expensive paper; signed in the blood of the poet; sealed in a gold-plated box; wrapped in an American flag; and buried behind Lufkin's Diner."


tmorange said...

i dig the silken drawings/stories too. does he do the images hisself i wonder?

you've got the occasion of 25 poems pretty much right. the darwinian poetry project can be found here.

the last line of the poem is "but in blindfold"!


K. Lorraine Graham said...

Ah, corrected the typo. I think he does the pictures himself.