Thursday, June 26, 2003

One of the historic weaknesses of poetry that relies heavily on spatial position on the page is that, too often, that is all the poet appears to be doing. That it doesn’t have to be this way – that you can utilize space and still pay total attention to the writing itself – is proven beyond reasonable doubt by Pornograph, a forthcoming book from Jonathon Wilcke, a Canadian poet who has recently spent some time in Japan.


While it was the Projectivists who first proposed the page as a field, Duncan & Olson seldom actually took advantage of the spatial implications of that idea, Olson principally in his palimpsest spirals in Maximus, Duncan really only in his great poem against the weapons of mass destruction, the use of napalm in Vietnam, “The Fire           Passages 13.” Wilcke on the other hand uses the page almost the way a baseball pitcher will use the strike zone – perfectly justified paragraphs can appear top, bottom, left, right or center. Type sizes vary tho rarely on the same page. The deepest the graphemic pyrotechnics get is when traditional stanzas overlap prose paragraphs, each crowding the other’s interlinear leading.


Overall, tho, Wilcke uses the spatial with a relatively conservative hand – he doesn’t want the reader to get lost in graphics. Which is all to the good, since it is the texts that are not conservative. They are mostly a delight, utilizing a general sense of prurience, an ear for dialog & found language, plus a sense of humor that could have attended the New York School: