Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Something I can’t quite place my finger on tells me that, deep down, Elizabeth Willis and I have very different aesthetics. The prose poems in Meteoric Flowers, her most recent volume (and a gorgeous production from Michael Cross’ Atticus Finch press), are impeccably crafted. They’re thoughtful, even beautiful.

An hour from now, however, I won’t recall a single poem with any great clarity. In a day or two, even my favorite phrases (“I, Walt Whitman, with Texas in my mouth”) will dissolve from memory. All that will remain will be an impression of the linguistic equivalent of pastels, soft edges, perfect angles, precise as an English garden.

It is perhaps my problem with the well-wrought urn that is getting in the way here. The quality of “wroughtness” seems very much the primary value in these pieces & Willis is a master at her craft – there’s never a wrong or uncertain move.

Yet I feel that these poems could be so much stronger if only there were a few mistakes, some real stumbles or blunders that would reveal a less defended author present. For under these glazed surfaces, I can’t seem to find any element of risk. And I think risk is what I need to see in order to trust the poet.

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