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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Henry Green on Prose

Prose is not to be read aloud but to oneself alone at night, and it is not quick as poetry but rather a gathering web of insinuations which go further than names however shared can ever go. Prose should be a long intimacy between strangers with no direct appeal to what both may have known. It should slowly appeal to feelings unexpressed, it should in the end draw tears out of the stone.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mary Ruefle on John Ashbery's Three Poems

I remember my first Ashbery reading, also in college. Ashbery was reading from his new book, Three Poems, and he said that it was a lot like watching TV—you could open the book anywhere and begin reading, and flip around the book as much as you wanted to. I remember hating him for saying this. I remember the word sacrilege came to mind. I remember not liking that reading.

I remember, two years later, reading Three Poems on a grassy slope while across the road three men put a new roof on an old house, and I was in love with one of them. I could watch the men working as I read. I remember that everything I was reading was everything that was happening across the way—I would read a little, then look up, read a little, then look up, and I was blown apart by the feeling this little book was about my life at that moment, exactly as I was living it. I remember loving the book, and that it was one of the memorable reading experiences of my life. - Mary Ruefle

Thursday, November 8, 2012

"The Mango Tree" by Hart Crane / Comment by Donald Revell

                           The Mango Tree

Let them return, saying you blush again for the great
Great-grandmother. It’s all like Christmas.
     When you sprouted Paradise a discard of chewing-gum 
took place. Up jug to musical hanging jug just gay spiders 
yoked you first, – silking of shadows good underdrawers for 
owls.
     First-plucked before and since the flood, old hypnotisms 
wrench the golden boughs. Leaves spatter dawn from emerald 
cloud-sprockets. Fat final prophets with lean bandits crouch:
the dusk is close
                                      Under your noon,
                                      you Sun-heap whose
ripe lanterns gush history, recondite lightnings, irised.
                                      O mister Señor
                                      missus Miss
                                      Mademoiselle
                                      with baskets
                                                    Maggy, come on

I love to remember the sweet perplexity and then the buoyancy I felt when first I read "The Mango Tree." Here is the purity of child's play in its full maturity. Risibly Rimbaldian in its references to Christmas and the flood and, via those golden boughs, glad to blow a raspberry at its abandoned high modernism, "The Mango Tree" is nevertheless instantly far beyond or far above satire in its immediate permissions: "Let them return"; there's a further paradise in a wad of gum. And there the wonderful hyphens (as in "cloud-sprockets" and "apple-lanterns") spell a new technology of the sacred, as simple, as portable, as freely inclusive as "baskets." A pure poem is unresisting in its inclusiveness, having excluded from itself the arguments that tether its figures to figures of speech. So quickly, "The Mango Tree" accomplishes a sun-drenched purity equal to the most beautiful passages in Gertrude Stein's Tender Buttons yet free of that great book's programmatic emphases. "Maggy, come on" is a summons to new circumstance where the poem says, and needs to say, no more.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A poem like and unlike a prayer

What, then, is the difference between a poem and a prayer? It depends on what is meant by prayer. There is prayer and prayer (pace Gertrude Stein). If it’s the sort of prayer that is a kind of plea bargain and assumes an auditor who is capable of answering the prayer, or the pleader wants something material to ensue as a result, then it is nothing like a poem. But insofar as the poet must relinquish a certain kind of control, and attain a kind of self-forgetfulness; must, as the ancients had it, call in the Goddess, the Muse, the power of the imagination - that which must be invited and cannot be commanded - in that sense, in which prayer involves a humbling and earnest entreaty for vision, and creative deepening of perception toward a kind of ease of being, then ok, the difference begins to fade.

- Eleanor Wilner