oven knob labeled 'oven control'

march 2021

reading diary

My Midwinter Poem by Anna Gurton-Wachter

One long 20-page poem, what came through her own Midwinter Day. I love her poetry’s sound—almost her speaking voice but notched with an impassioned pleading, as though her poem would reel life closer. This writing is the movement of the thought, its method of turning this way and that, open and ranging, yet willing to stay/return when an image pulls. “In the background of my thoughts / Like the wallpaper / Like the walls / The story of how the floor / Met the walls she called it / Perhaps she still does / Referring to something private / Or just the general idea of houses / Of joining and separation, distinctions / Meetings and encounters / And I’m worried we don’t have sex anymore / I said to the wall, the floor / Where the floor meets the wall / I’m worried about this no sex pattern.” Nothing is simply the production of one emotion, as here the refrain of “I’m worried about this no sex pattern” shifts slightly from its initial appearance, deepens and complicates the attending anger with another feeling of relief at hearing it in a different register. I see a cybernetic network of poetry, of worlds coming together through acts of reading, writing and encounter, to produce in every way unforeseen moments of existence (“I remember the part in another / Of Bernadette’s poems where she and Peggy / And maybe someone else were wishing for chairs / Longing for chairs, dreaming of them / And then look outside and see someone has just thrown / Some chairs out on the street / Right in front of their apartment / And what a gift from the universe!”). So, too, does this poem produce the unforeseeable, creating overlays between past and present, rumination and projection, like a diaper for the falling snow, “seen through the perpetual pinhole camera.”

Out of the Question: Selected Poems (1963-2003) by Lewis Warsh

I came to this book in response to the communal love wishes expressed for Lewis in the wake of his death this year. So the poems themselves often had the sense of being transmissions to a community, not only the family and friend relations depicted or spoken to directly in the work, but a more open and undulant form of social tie. He seemed to speak to an audience knowing they cherished his tone, the thing that on the page sounds like his gently lisping voice. A lot of the poems follow from a central premise laid out in the book’s very first (“The Suicide Rates,” a long serial work written in one night while he, just 18 years old, looked out of the window of his parent’s apartment); as he puts it, “how to talk about my life without saying anything directly, hinting and then going back over what I said in a different way.” My favorites throughout the book feel like silhouettes of negative space, attracting phrases, images, emotional tones, mental propositions that contour that cloudy figure. Sometimes the poems risk just being riffs on form or sound, and sometimes they risk too much—“Korean Love Song” ends with the speaker, assumed female and Korean, down and on her knees to “beg for more.” To what end? But his best trait is the magnetic openness of his “hinting,” which can produce rich, sharply described renditions of a world full of good and terrible things, a way to see the connecting tissue between them all.