20 ene. 2005

I'm more than a little disappointed with Cole Swensen's Goest. The book flaunts its intellectuality, but I never found the intellectual pay-off. The language is flat, and despite the emphasis on visuality, I don't think she has a very keen poetic "eye." The factoid-filled history of incandescence that makes up the middle section of the book has a tedious, academic feel to it, like a workshop exercise that's gone on too long. This is poetry that should BE incandescent, not just talk about it. Those luminous details just don't shine brightly enough. Too many poems had an inconsequential tone to them, at least in my first reading of the book. The first prose poem, "The Girl Who Never Rained," was mildly amusing in a sort of muted Russell Edson manner. I liked this poem ok, but it's nothing special.

This is part of an argument I'm having with myself. I feel that this is the sort of poetry I ought to be enthused about, yet somehow I'm not, because I sense that it's dull and Iowaesque, despite the blurbs on the back from Hejinian and Waldman. It's a very cautious, defensive style; you won't find a bad poem in the book, nothing to make fun of, and quite a few passages of half-way decent writing that I could easily defend, but is this really one of the best works by this poet? Is this one of "our" best poets? Or is this the sort of post-language poet who is most palatable to the hideous Iowa aesthetic of dullness? Or maybe the book is great and I'm just in a bad mood and will have to take everything back tomorrow?

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