Thursday, April 19, 2012

a little bit more Schuyler

So what happened is this. I have a notebook where I keep things I like from things I've read. I mean I have many notebooks. I fill one every couple of years. I can't find the most recent one where I put things, so for now I will put things here. That will solve my current indexing issues. But there is something inherently satisfying about writing out by hand the things I love. There is an intimacy to physically forming the words that is not replicated in the experience of typing.

Or maybe I just like hand cramps.

This is the rest of what I loved from James Schuyler's The Home Book.

The second of "Two Meditations" - there is something magical that happens when Schulyer boxes words into prose poems. Through compression that one doesn't generally get in his lineated poems (perhaps this is a natural inclination in prose poetry? toward compression?), the words push and shove at each other, the sounds explode. At least this is my experience.

From "Two Meditations"

Out of the gray bay gray rocks, close spaced and each a little black green north tree forest. This became denser until it was the color of a hole. The trawler anchored and they scrambled ashore in an inlet closed by a little white sand beach like a Negro's very white palm, the guide experienced and dignified last in laced boots with moccasin bottoms. The clarity of the water reelected a dead tree while he boiled great lake trout in a galvanized bucket on a resinous fire. A green flame. Everyone has planned to change his "way of life" until he tasted the fish, which was tasteless. Scales on the dull sand like garbage, or rain. It began raining, a drop at a time, big as cod liver oil capsules. The two boys' knees lichened and their shrills faded high and out into the falls of shot grouse curving into a November wet matchstick field. Burrs, unfinished houses.

Like that: ending on the parataxis of a two-item list... Burrs, unfinished houses. And the sentence before. (And not just for the use of the word "lichened.") The end seems that much more truncated by the volley of small (I would generally argue in poetry and for the sake of compression, unnecessary) words in the previous sentence. "The two boys' knees lichened and their shrills faded high and out into the falls of shot grouse curving into a November wet matchstick field." November wet matchstick field. Resinous fire. A green flame. The fish was tasteless. Out of the gray bay gray rocks. To say "gray waves" would be too much, but it's where the mind goes when presented with the triple rhyme, the mind bends naturally to the fourth slant rhyme. Or this mind does. I'm glad it didn't happen. In not happening, it happened anyway.

I should say this is a weirdly cohesive book for being a smattering of unpublished work (prose, poetry, prose poetry, drama even, a sonnet) from the 1950s and 60s.

From the title piece "The Home Book," which is unspecified prose.

"I know what troubles me. It is so simple: I don't want to give myself away. I don't want to confess, to say I am my history and it is mine, something I made, because as long as I don't I can pretend that I could change and become some other person I won't ever be. I don't want to give myself because to give is to lose and that is like dying; I don't want to lose any human love or pleasure through a deal with that which is invisible and by which I may gain nothing."

The speaker is talking about religion, but it strikes home pretty hard out of this context for me.

And then (from "Four Poems for Frank O'Hara"...

It's quarter of five
and the Fucking Tree has birds in its hair.

I wonder if I can claim influence after the fact. This happened while reading The Cantos also, that something was a nearly word-for-word echo of something in MFS.

(image "Fire Walk With Me" by Martin Wittfooth)

1 comment:

birds fly said...

Thanks for sharing these words from Schuyler. I will now be seeking out The Home Book!