Wednesday, July 07, 2004

 

As noted in this blog before, Ahsahta Press, now a part of the Boise State University publishing empire, has – in addition to publishing books by interesting new writers – Noah Eli Gordon is next up on their to-do list, having just received the Sawtooth Poetry Prize – been doing serious work making available books of poetry by poets whose work might otherwise disappear from view. In particular, the press has taken on something of the project of tracking American modernism of the west, especially that which was not automatically linked up to a second-tier publishing center like San Francisco. 

 

In addition to Genevieve Taggard’s To the Natural World & Judson Crews’ The Clock of Moss, the press has brought out two volumes by 1926 Yale Younger Poet Thomas Hornsby Ferril and Hildegarde Flanner’s The Hearkening Eye, as well as books by Haniel Long & Norman MacLeod, among many others. Unlike its volumes of more recent authors, such as Graham Foust or Lance Phillips, published as Ahsahta Press New Series, the books in its Modern and Contemporary Poetry of the American West series have a print-on-demand look about them, with matte covers and no real cover art beyond the press’ logo, with no blurbs or copy on the backs. My copies of both the Crews & Taggard volumes both disintegrated during their first reading, as if the glue in the binding were there more as a gesture than a commitment. Still, I’m exceptionally happy to have my hands on all of this material, whether it’s fairly obscure (as Taggard has become, say) or more recent, like the book by Crews or one by William Witherup – another little mag staple of my youth – or (and this is a gem of a discovery) what appears to be Cynthia Hogue’s first book, The Woman in Red. While I’ve been kvetching for decades over the problem of “disappearing poets,” Ahsahta has been quietly doing something about it.  

 

If one were to divide the world of poetry, as Josephine Miles pictures it at the end of World War I, into “the poets in the Whitman tradition, trying their new freedoms, and those who held closely to or were renewing a kind of neat quatrain power,” Taggard might be said to fall closer to – tho not exactly in – the latter camp. Indeed, Taggard reminds me of the fact that Ezra Pound’s great poem, “A Pact,” from Lustra (“I make a pact with you, Walt Whitman -- / I have detested you long enough.”), is predicated by precisely the problem that the choice as posed, say, by Miles, of Whitman or the chains of quatrains, is finally not enough. One could, to some degree, see  modernism in poetry as the attempt to offer an alternative to heritage of closed forms other than through sheer orality.

 

Taggard herself was born in 1894, a decade ahead of Carl Rakosi, a decade behind Pound, Wlliams, Marianne Moore & HD. Born in Waitsburg, Washington, northeast of Walla Walla & not more than 50 miles from where I was born, Taggard grew up in what was then outside of the United States, in Hawaii, returning at the age of 18 to attend the University of California, after which she lived a life in constant motion, living everywhere from Capri & Mallorca to San Francisco & New York. Rare for someone in her generation, Taggard taught poetry at three universities. Married twice – her first husband was confined to a mental hospital – Taggard died in 1948.

 

There is one poem in Taggard’s 1980 volume that addresses the question of competing aesthetics. It is called “Aleatory Wind” & Miles, clearly on the quatrain side of the fulcrum, characterizes it as “an essay”:

 

Much offends.

Especially the new beauty;

The honest eye that shines and pierces

Even while it pours its honest love like a vapor of healing.

The bare ritual offends;

And the ritual of brotherhood

Which is the basalt sense of the world

Offends, is made to seem contrary and ugly

By means of another ritual with a flimsy deity

And a fantastic logic.

                         Where the hands have no liking

For stones and where minds are blind

To structure. Wherever the hands cease to take hold,

Where the mind backs away from the plain and the related.

This ritual will hurt

The hands of those

Who have left the wilderness of necessity.

Deep mutuality, the sense of distance,

The sense of depth.

 

Of the fertility of stones, their tears.

Of the electrical star, its tears.

Of the hilarity of the stone brotherhood, the activity of jasper,

Of the inertia of stones, the fixity of basalt,

Of the vigor of stones in their power to draw,

To test metals, to build shapes, to be in space,

To become fluid in the blood of volcanoes,

Of these I made claim . . .

 

“No art,” said the European, sidestepping the rattlesnakes,

With ballet steps. “Unreal,” said the European, “No ghosts.

No culture.”

 

I took a stone of weeping in my right hand.

And a stone of laughter in my left.

 

So the ritual always began, testing the power to hold.

Holding them behind me I juggled them evenly and said “Choose.

Lodestones and touchstones. Magnets subtle, complex.

The greathearted jewels of the obsidian world.”

 

And looking downward I saw a finger of wind in the dust,

Spinning the dust in a wheel, erratic,

In a funnel, a nothing of wind.

 

New-world dust sang a sulky little song.

But the tourist heard no song

And saw only liver-colored dust

About a foot high, suspended, in which to wade.

 

This stone is the electrical star,

The cleaver of space; can you, will you

Bowl it in nine-pins?

Curve it, will it to glide

In dream repetition?

 

We learn slowly the ritual of stones

And the tactile sense. The snap of action.

The excellent flash of the body

When it kneels and swings.

 

In this ritual we dance.

For we clasp our ghost, we whirl with a new music.

He is the man we murdered,

The red man. He goes. He is here.

Our ghost is our culture. And we embrace another.

He is the man we murder.

The black man. He returns and returns,

Teaching ritual. And every kind of man

Draws into this whirl. The wind veers

As if to nullify all.

The center of the earth is basalt.

Here we gaze to commune

On action’s articulate bones,

Observing our guilt; the rituals of food and power

All wrongly played. Of this we know much.

Sharing aleatory wind

A thin ether.

Playing with skulls, colors, gadgets

Inventions and dice.

 

A dangerous country. With a culture like whisky.

 

The European wore gloves,

And under the gloves, thimbles

On each finger – clumsy.

He turned the pages of old situations

And muttered his pity in the stony places.

 

This is not, you may have noticed, great poetry. But it doesn’t need to be to make my point. Taggard, not unlike Pound, is trying to find a grounds for an aesthetic other than “the European, sidestepping the rattlesnakes, / With ballet steps.” Not unlike William Carlos Williams, who found Pound’s promotion of Eliot to be a capitulation to “the European,” Taggard likewise attempts to define something uniquely American (i.e. non-European) in which to ground formal differences.

 

The poem’s opening suggests that Taggard is going to find this quality – X – in some mystical notion, literally something capable of supporting “the fertility of stones.” It’s almost as if Taggard is anticipating Olson’s sense of landscape – or as he liked to call it, in caps, SPACE – but in fact she turns away from that dimension, at least as transcendant cause, looking instead on the temporal access. Thus, if the European’s complaint is that the new world – and by inference its poetics – lacks history – “No ghosts” is the complaint – Taggard counters precisely with the ghost of genocide, and not of one race, but of two.

 

Considering that a considerable portion of Taggard’s own work could easily be characterized as “European” in the sense that Miles suggests as “renewing a kind of neat quatrain power,” Aleatory Wind is an intriguing thought experiment. At one level, Taggard gets it that American poetry might prove inherently different from its cousins across the pond. Yet she wants the causes for this to be relatively straightforward – none of this “base vs. superstructure” stuff that was fashionable once upon a time here. What she ends up with is not that far removed from a version of American exceptionalism – the theory that attempted to explain why the US never had a major socialist movement. If the origin of European culture – those “ballet steps” – can be said to be history – “ghosts” – it is not that the US lacks its own apparitions, but rather than in our truncated sense of the past what we have instead are two genocidal movements – the Indian “wars,” and lynching.

 

And this is where I wish I knew just when Taggard was writing here – the only mention of this poem,  the longest in the book, I can find among the index of her papers at Dartmouth is a collection of typescript fragments, undated. Is she testing open form, pushing it beyond her normal sense of the poem, which frankly is how I read it in the context of her other poems here? Or is this a kind a set-up? Is she arguing that what is distinctly American – our ‘”rattlesnakes” – is a kind of toxin, the literary vestage of our own damage? Hard to imagine that view too close to World War I, or WW2 for that matter.

 

The poem appears in the “Washington and California” second section of the volume, after the juvenilia of “Hawaii,” so presumably was written either when Taggard was studying at Berkeley, or relatively soon thereafter, thus the work of a woman in her twenties.

 

Yet if she is arguing for a connection between the violence & poisons of the American experience, this poem is, in the same moment, an argument for this indeed. What “offends,” after all is “new beauty,” “honest love” and “the ritual of brotherhood.” There is an articulateness to the opacity of the landscape, its immanence –

 

New-world dust sang a sulky little song.

But the tourist heard no song

 

It’s a conundrum that plays out in our own landscape as well.



Tuesday, July 06, 2004

 

 

Gael Turnbull

1928 - 2004

                                                                       

                                                                       

                                                It’s dark

                                               

                                       It’s dark

                                       and late

                                       and still

                                       Let me hear

                                       your voice –

                                       once again

                                       once more –

                                       the sound

                                       of your voice

                                       as you speak

                                       my name.

                                       Let me feel

                                       your touch –

                                       and again

                                       as before –

                                       against

                                       all the cold

                                       in the night

                                       out there

                                       kept away

                                       by the fold

                                       of your arms.

                                       Let me be

                                       as I am

                                       with you

                                       as we are

                                       like this

                                       while we can

                                       still know

                                       while we are

                                       still here

                                       while you are

                                       as you are –

                                       no one else

                                       nothing more –

                                       that is how.

                                       There’s time

                                       even yet

                                       even now.

                                                         

         



Monday, July 05, 2004

 

There is a wonderful evocation of a lost world in a 1980 note by Josephine Miles that serves as a preface to Genevieve Taggard’s To the Natural World:

 

In a legendary time in the Greek Theater in Berkeley at the end of the first world war, poets gathered around the visitor Witter Bynner with a great sense of inventiveness and praise. Names I have heard from that time were Genevieve Taggard, Hidegarde Flanner, Eda Lou Walton, David Greenhood, Jack Lyman. A decade later, all were scattered, and new figures were slowly appearing from a distance, Colonel Charles Erskine Scott Wood and his wife Sara Bard Field. Marie West. Yvor Winters, Kenneth Rexroth, Lincoln Fitzell. There persisted a contrast between the poets in the Whitman tradition, trying their freedoms, and those who held closely to or were renewing a kind of neat quatrain power, as we could read elsewhere in the country in Millay, Teasdale, Wylie, for example. Bynner lauded both.

 

“There persisted a contrast” as indeed there did & does.* Miles’ portrait is intriguing, leaving out for example such major figures as George Sterling and Ina Coolbrith. And was Robinson Jeffers that far to the south? No more so than Sterling.

 

But other than Rexroth – somewhat – and Winters, principally through his student Thom Gunn, there is almost no way I can imagine any connection between the Bay Area poetry scene of my day, starting say with the Berkeley Poetry Conference in 1965, & this “legendary time” Miss Miles envisons.

 

Some of this has to do with the nature of publishing, especially problematic at such a remove from the economic centers of an emerging corpratist trade book industry in New York & Boston. Lyman, whose actual name was William Whittingham Lyman, co-edited, with Vernon Rupert King, a volume called Today’s Literature in 1935. But there is precious little mention of him or it on the net & indeed, Miles’ own poem on the same page provides as much detail as you are apt to find.  

 

“A decade later, all were scattered,” Miles writes, a phenomenon not restricted to the poets of 1919. I suspect that the Bay Area – which has always had a highly mobile population, with a substantial portion of its citizenry having migrated from elsewhere** – has always had a transitory literary community. As noted in this blog before, the so-called San Francisco Renaissance figured as a major section of Donald Allen’s epochal The New American Poetry was, at least by contrast to its sections on the Black Mountain Poets, the New York School & the Beats, largely a fiction of editing. The Beats were, in fact, as much a phenomenon of San Francisco as the Renaissance, even tho most of them seemed to have been born on the far coast & their tenure in the Bay Area seemed all the more ephemeral, collectively identifiable as just a couple of critical years in the mid-1950s. In fact, Allen put Phil Whalen, Michael McClure & Gary Snyder all in his fifth or “unaffiliated” section, alongside LeRoi Jones, Ray Bremser & John Wieners. Yet how is one to think of them today? And why are Whalen & Snyder not in the SF Renaissance section alongside their fellow Reed College alum, Lew Welch (who spend a fair portion of his Renaissance days working in that SF suburb known as Chicago))?

 

What brings this to mind, curiously, is not just the depiction of a scene – two scenes, really, ten years apart in time – in Miles’ intro to Taggard’s book, but the announcement of a forthcoming conference on Diasporic Avant-Gardes: Experimental Poetics and Cultural Displacement, planned for November at UC Irvine. I know – by which I mean that you don’t have to tell me – that this is not precisely what the organizers, Carrie Noland & Barrett Watten, had in mind by the use of the term diaspora. But at some level, it very much fits.

 

If one looks back at the generation of poets in the western section of In the American Tree, for example, you can trace the migration patterns of a literary scene. In 1982, when the largest portion of the book was edited, 16 of the 18 poets grouped under West lived in the Bay Area. Had it been done a couple of years earlier, Erica Hunt would have made it 17 of 19. Today, just eight do. Of the ten poets in the East section who were then living in & around New York City, all of the nine still living reside at least within driving distance of the city, albeit Michael Gottleib’s ride in from the northwest corner of Connecticut must be quite a schlep. Indeed, of the twenty poets overall in that section, only two, Diane Ward & Clark Coolidge, have permanently moved to other parts of the country. It’s interesting – maybe even counterintuitive – that New York City proves to be (at least in this one instance) more stable a community over time than the Bay Area.

 

Economics obviously play a part of the equation – and a significant part – but I’m less sure that that was the case prior to 1950 & yet here are not one but two sequential generations of pre-WW2 poets who proved no more stable than the poets of the 1970s & early ‘80s. And while one can, I think, talk reasonably of the continuities of poetry in the Bay Area since the end of World War 2 – essentially since Rexroth & the New Americans came together – it’s the discontinuities that strike me most today.

 

 

 

* Tho, in the very next lines, Miss Miles – having known her somewhat, I cannot imagine calling her anything else – denies being able to hear it any more in the poetry of a quarter century ago.

 

** Indeed, I was always considered something of an oddity, having gone to high school just over the line from Berkeley in Albany. Yet, of course, there were other East Bay poets around as well, if one just knew where to scratch below the surface. Stephen Vincent, for example, went to high school in Richmond, Lyn Hejinian & Leslie Scalapino in Berkeley, Michael Davidson & Barrett Watten in Oakland.



Friday, July 02, 2004

 

It’s been about a week since my twelve-year-old sons & I went to see Fahrenheit 9/11 in nearby Oaks, Pennsylvania, a dot of a town northwest of Valley Forge. I’d gotten our tickets over the net ahead of time in order to ensure that it wouldn’t be sold out, but I was surprised, frankly, to see that the theater was showing the film in a room larger than the one reserved for White Chicks. In fact, our theater wasn’t sold out, but it was 97 percent full, maybe a smidgen more. Afterwards, we stood around with some friends who passed out voter registration cards – we were lucky, as it happened. At a mall in nearby Downingtown, another acquaintance got busted for passing out such cards. Five state police cars arrived at that theater within a couple of minutes in spite of the fact that the nearest barracks is 20 minutes away. Did I mention that I live in a community that has elected exactly one Democrat to anything – the schoolboard in the 1940s for a single term – since the 1890s, but that Al Gore won here in 2000?

 

I’ve reseen all of Moore’s major films in the past few weeks, ever since one of my sons picked up the book Stupid White Men & noted that “this is a guy who makes funny movies from a left perspective & writes funny books from a left perspective – this is like looking at my future.” Just how big of a hint does a father need? After we’d watched Roger and Me, we’d discussed how Moore didn’t present the entire picture with regards to globalism – rather, that film was a look at the short-term impact on a specific community. But that’s a view that is sustainable only if you argue that the United States has the right in perpetuity to utilize one-quarter of the world’s resources for the benefit of just four percent of the world’s population. The problem with globalism isn’t that it’s happening, but rather how it’s being done: for every dollar that is being shipped overseas, something like 30 cents is dropping to the bottom line (in the form of profits, executive pay & bonuses) & virtually nothing is being done to mitigate the impact on workers impacted by what Joseph Schumpeter called “creative destruction.”

 

When we watched Bowling for Columbine, we discussed how Michael Moore points out the stunning detail that gun control advocates never explain adequately – which is that Canada, with the same level of gun ownership as the United States & a culture that is more similar than different, has only a fraction of the gun deaths per capita that afflicts its neighbor to the south. But Moore doesn’t explore this anomaly at all. Instead he focuses on the gun lobby, which frankly is low hanging fruit. Possibly the topic is too large, or perhaps when Moore & the kids from Columbine provoked K-Mart to change its policy on selling bullets he found himself with a different story than the one he’d anticipated. But Bowling for Columbine strikes me as a major missed opportunity, going for laughs by focusing on the NRA rather than trying for an insight into why Canada & the U.S. have such different experiences under roughly parallel circumstances. For that matter, Moore doesn’t do a good job in explaining how the NRA has gotten to be the largest membership organization in the United States. They aren’t all psychotic fascists, even if that’s what the leadership wants to project.

 

So I approached Fahrenheit 9/11 with some trepidation. And what surprised me the most wasn’t that Moore spins an imperfect narrative – the topic is far too vast for any film shorter than The Godfather, if not Berlin Alexanderplatz. No, given everything that I’d read online or in the papers, plus everything I’d heard on TV, what most amazed me was how fair Moore is. Fair & ultimately balanced. Bill O'Reilly had not prepared me for that. But neither had Roger Ebert.

 

Consider the impossibility of the project, and how Moore in turn responded. In order to set the context – the “before” part of the tale – he chose to focus on how Bush got into office & what he did once he got there, which frankly was not much. In the “after” portion of the film, Moore makes three major arguments:

 

·         The Bush family dynasty cannot be extricated from its relationship to the triangle of oil, the intelligence community and the Saudi elite.

 

·         Wars are not fought by elites, but by kids who are swept up into the military for want of other economic alternatives in their lives.

 

·         The loss of a loved one in war is overwhelming.

 

The first of those points has been detailed in far greater detail by none other than Kevin Phillips, the man who first gave Richard Nixon’s Republican Party the Southern Strategy it follows to this day, in his anti-Bush tome, American Dynasty. It may be a bit much to suggest, as some viewers see Moore doing, that Bush’ primary goal in invading Iraq may have been profit – there are other reasons* why the far right might well want to be in Iraq – but the problematics created by our entanglement with the Saudis are hard to underestimate. The difficulty in unpacking the problem of Islamic fundamentalism when your “best friends” are just such fundamentalists is the trick that has to be solved if the West, and especially the United States, is ever to extricate itself from the jihad against modernism.

 

Moore’s second point, tho hardly new or original, is really this film’s great contribution to the debate over Iraq. He outlines in the clearest possible terms the great secret of the American military – that it is, especially now that it is all voluntary, the GOP form of welfare state. It does precisely what welfare has always done: provides for those who cannot provide for themselves, connects them to opportunities, education & security. Only it does so without admitting that this is what it’s all about, and its one major requirement is that beneficiaries aren’t supposed to complain just because they’re being asked to kill & be killed. Furthermore, as Republicans have known for generations, it cannot be attacked on these terms, precisely because to do so can be characterized as “unpatriotic.”**

 

Moore’s third point, Lila Lipscomb’s extraordinary story within the film, functions as the synthesis or conclusion in the director’s narrative syllogism: elites make war; the underclass fights wars; it is hell for the underclass. I’ve been surprised, frankly, that there haven’t been more complaints on the left about this being emotionally manipulative, given the left’s preference for complexity, for a tale not just in black & white, but with the grays left in. Moore’s great talent, his unique contribution to the left, has been his ability to make entertaining progressive films that are not at all subtle. Unlike, say, Jim Hightower (on the humorous side) or Alexander Cockburn & Naom Chomsky (on the ponderous end of the scale), Moore doesn’t scratch against the blackboard of the soul with his oversimplifications & just-plain-got-it-wrongs, even tho he has just as many.

 

In the battle for political hegemony, the American left has always been hamstrung by the fact that it usually has to fight not over any given political point, but over the issue of depth & complexity simultaneously. The moral absolutism & simple-minded arguments of the right – say, over abstinence instead of sex education in schools or over needle exchange programs to prevent AIDS, or that support of our troops necessarily means support of the war – are not just endearing quirks of the right, but in fact an important political dimension to their argument, one that plays itself out powerfully along class lines. When Lila Lipscomb describes how she felt about anti-war protestors against the first Iraq war, she is saying a lot about the inability of the left to communicate to anyone other than itself. It’s the same point that Bill Clinton has made repeatedly when he says that the American voters would rather have a leader who is strong, but wrong, in times of crisis. And it is also precisely the risk that John Kerry runs whenever he responds to any question in a way that looks too cautious – which is mostly all the time.

 

Moore’s film is an argument that it need not be this way. It can, I think, be faulted for any, perhaps all, of the individual choices he makes in constructing an argument that you can reach people with a skeletal but powerful narrative far more readily than through the nuances of true debate. You might cringe at how he steals the “plastic bag in the wind” scene from American Beauty as his model for conveying the transcendant power of September 11 through pages & dust drifting in the air. But the simple fact is that Michael Moore has managed to go over the heads not just of his fellow ambiguity junkies on the left, but over the right as well, including the very same media mavens such as Bill O'Reilly & Brit Hume who effectively ganged up on & dismantled an unprepared Howard Dean campaign just three months ago. Is it any accident that the greatest master of agit-prop since at least Bertie Brecht happens to look just like a real-life Archie Bunker?

 

 

* I tend to agree with the Stratfor Group’s analysis that putting upwards of a dozen military bases in the second largest oil producing nation, thus completing the “chain” of western military presence in the Middle East from Israel to the west to Afghanistan in the East was the foremost political goal of the invasion.

 

** The closest we have come to having any public recognition of these dynamics has been around Clinton’s concept of a civilian service core, which should have been the other half of his own welfare “reform” program. GOP attacks on civilian service are exactly what they are not willing to make against the military, not because it serves a different function, but because it is, almost in the Mafia sense of the phrase, their thing.

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Thursday, July 01, 2004

 

Judson Crews is a name I recognize from little magazines some 30 years ago & remember more distinctly from positive mentions of it by Robert Creeley, mostly in association with Creeley’s days in New Mexico. So when I saw Crews’ The Clock of Moss listed in the Ahsahta Press catalog awhile back, I sent for it immediately. I’m glad I did. Tho I’m a little amazed that I didn’t learn of this book until 21 years after it was originally published.

 

Edited by Carol Bergé, herself a poet whose work has been too little collected and reviewed, Crews’ poetry is a fine example of quality work written by somebody deeply influenced by various aspects of the New American Poetry, as well as by the same influences that shaped that 1950s generation. Born in 1917 – and still alive so far as I can tell – Crews is just two years older than Robert Duncan & writes a poem that has resemblances to the work of William Carlos Williams, Creeley, Olson, Dorn, Snyder, Blackburn & Gilbert Sorrentino. Had he “made the scene” more aggressively – rather than spending most of his adult years in Taos, save for four years in the 1970s in just barely more remote Zambia, Crews almost certainly would be a “household name poet” today.

 

Instead, like Bergé or Besmilr Brigham or even a fairly established San Francisco poet of that period like Harold Dull, Crews has become one of those gems you find if you’re one of us obsessive reader types. It seems to me absolutely impossible to imagine how one can envision an American poetry of those middle decades in the last century without the active context provided by such writers, without whom the names we do know would have been isolated indeed.

 

His poems are contained in the way so many of the shorter New American poems of that period are – not yet open-ended in quite the way poems will become once the likes of Berrigan & Whalen & the later Olson will make possible – and present a vision of the American west that is as sharply etched as anything ever written by Edward Dorn:

 

The day’s cock of morning

 

That bird is neither anonymous

nor fragile. His spurs could cut

 

An old gelding’s flanks sharply

if we needed to get to somewhere

 

In that big of a hurry.

My last pair of spurs

 

Had some silver on them – sold

them finally when I thought

 

I needed the cash the most.

When I thought – when I thought

 

I’m gonna need to eat again

say, three or four days

 

Guess it is more dignified

to shoot that old bird than

 

           chop his bloody head off

 

This poem’s shifts within its narrative frame are deft enough, but what really impresses me is its play with what, for want of a better adjective, one might call its Freudian frame – from cock through gelding through spurs to that final line, which is completely phallic. That Crews was trained professionally as a sociologist & psychologist makes total sense reading this.

 

Actually, in precisely this context, one thing one confronts reading Crews is an attitude towards gender which bespeaks prefeminism, or at least its second wave. Women here are figured as whores, crones, and girls just coming into puberty:

 

If she had spoken, if I

 

Had spoken – that face of evil

that had fallen upon that place

 

The feature that had chilled us

each. She was a faster draw

 

Than I, but a poorer aim –

I was oozing blood from the left

 

Testicle. But she was dead.

What could she have been doing

 

In such a place – naked with a

bandolier and a six-shooter

 

You would know it was out
West. You would think it was

 

The old days. You wouldn’t think it

was She, holding out the apple

 

This is not – which may be hard to imagine in a 50-page book – the only poem to recount this gunfight of the sexes, nor is this the only instance of a gal naked but for her bandolier. Like the narrative containment these poems all share, I read this as a mark of its time, carbon dating the text. Yet get past this – or not, even, maybe just focus right there upon it – and you will find some of the most well-crafted examples of a western New American text I’ve read. The one thing this book made me want to do, more than anything, is to find & read more poetry by Judson Crews.



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