Wednesday, June 04, 2008

NaPoReMo and Talk Poetry

You can blame Rob MacKenzie for this one. Back in May he suggested buying and reading a book of contemporary poetry closely across the month and then posting thoughts and comments blogwise to get across a sense of the book.

There may be more than one book here, but I'll make a start on Talk Poetry by Mairead Byrne, available through Amazon and many other stockists. I was going to work on this for my MA, but found myself questioning my own poetics so much that I had to set it aside!?!

Byrne is an exiled Irish poet living in Providence, Rhode Island, US, since 1994, where she presently teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design. Her poetry has evolved over that period of time and looks towards the poetry of the US. I'm thinking Alan Ginsberg, Frank O'Hara, Walt Whitman (but that only scratches at the surface) as I read the book, which comprises prose poems that sizzle and dazzle off the pages at you. Talk Poetry is alphabetically organised, which takes chronology out of the frame. According to Byrne, italso makes it easier to find poems in readings: saving you pfaffing about with page markers.

The opening poem, "America" bounces along with the energy of a golden labrador. The voice sounds like someone talking - an American and conflating things that are in the US and things that aren't: pointing to a sense of ignorance, enthusiasm as well as that sense of imperial ownership (please excuse blogger's messing up the prose blocks):

We got all this space & democracy & everything & just the greatest music. Like Chuck Berry & Buddy Holly & Elvis & Bob Dylan & Bob Marley & Van Morrison & The Beatles & Vivaldi & everything.

The reason why I think of Frank O'Hara particularly is the WE LOVE YOU WALTER, that comes after the conflated namechecking of various poets and writers, again from both inside and outside the US. O'Hara's Lunch Poems include "Poem" about Lana Turner's collapse, and ends with the humorous line, 'oh Lana Turner we love you get up".

Byrne's "America" goes on to play with the understanding of imperialism too:

You're not going to catch me saying civilization began with the Mayflower! None of that shit -- I mean how did those people BUILD those things. THE PYRAMIDS. I mean people still don't understand the physics of it. They had to had rollers or something. No, King Tut is as American as as anyone in my book.

By the end of the poem, we understand this speaker as someone eavesdropped on. We're still not sure about the inclusivity of the speaker's viewpoint. Talk Poetry is a good descriptor for the tone of this poem, giving a skewed view like this at the start of the collection.

Poor eldest ant-hill-mob inmate begins his career in state examinations today with the Junior Cert. Now we see whether the weeks of study will stand to him.


Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Dear Barbara, thank you very much for your comment on my posts.

I've just heard the news about Obama, now he is the Democratic candidate.
It's something that makes me so happy...I would like to be able to write a poem on that, but my "settings" go into other directions.
Best wishes, Davide

Cailleach said...

It is a coup for Obama: I hope he goes on to win the presidential election. It is hard to write political poems that have a wider agenda than the moment that they're in, for sure.

Dick said...

Thanks for the intro, Barbara. She sounds fascinating. Off to Amazon...