Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category


On the whole, we in the U.S. speak and write in the English language…with the exception, of course, of those who
have kept native tongues. My consideration here is relative to English, as it is written…most particularly, as poetry.

Of late, I’ve been reading some of the theories and work of what has been called the L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E school of poetry. Obviously, the focus is on the words themselves…not on the poets’ intention, or prescribed meaning.
This is a very interesting approach. It allows the reader to participate in the process…not merely as a passive receiver. It tends to minimize the power the poet is exerting over the reader. In this sense, it becomes a viable political engagement. We are not being TOLD a narrative or simply given a description. We are being asked to
bring our own consciousness to the process. I like the word “engagement”….it suggests involvement and even a kind of responsibility for our own part in what’s going on. Another aspect of some Language poetry is its digression,
leaping from one focus to another, abruptly…so that the mind is called on to find connections in what appears to be disparate. Here is a language poem:



It was written by Robert Grenier, who looked on language as a visual construct. The interpretation given by Bob Perelman is that it is a call. How do you see it? I see it as rounded letters ending in a rigid one. Meaning?
A pleasant memory of a man named Joe. Or…the evocation of all the Joes in the world. So, is language a game?
Perhaps it is. The most important factor to me is that in an effort to communicate accurately we often misinterpret. Language poetry by focusing on the words themselves heightens awareness of the multiplicity of meaning…or meaninglessness…in what is said, or written.

Was Wallace Stevens an early language poet, without portfolio?

“The truth in a calm world/In which there is no other meaning…”

Does language give us meaning…or the other way around? Poetry has long been thought of as a kind of refuge…a sort of psalm or hymn….to assure the restless, vulnerable psyche. It may well be that, but I like to think of it as something more: a challenge to think as an independent thinker. That demands creativity on the part of the reader as well as the poet. Whether language poetry is an answer or not, I cannot say, or whether I particularly enjoy reading it. I do like the challenge, which also says, Meet me on your terms. That is more democratic than what passes for democracy in the world.


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Malinda Markham is a seer. Her poetry shines its glistening language deep into the interior. The crystal ball she peers into is not the world of politics, wars, money-power. It’s the reality of nature, its abiding relation to the human spirit (“Each maple leaf a school of urgency.”). It’s the slant, but penetrating revelation of human emotion and desire (“The sky is water,and yes, I am thirsty.”).

She both creates and feeds my hunger. (“How stories scald the sheets
until they’re stark enough to shelter even the richest skin.”) Nowhere else have I found language so tangential, fragmented and at the same time profoundly affecting in its totality. Each poem is an artifact. The “about” of her work is a given-over to the unknown, the unexpected, a leap of faith. She takes me where I don’t know I want to go, until I’m there. (“The dead/shook themselves loose from whatever/had kept them.”)

Children and their fears, their immediacy, their fierceness, their clarity even in their uncertainty and above all, their imagination appear in many of her poems and I am sent to my own childhood, my children’s.

Throughout, her poetry beats with the sound of melancholy, not sadness or depression, just a terrible, deep longing that is both private and answerable only in meeting.

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Hello world!


Why do I consider myself an experimental poet? Or better still, what does that really mean? What it means to me is a willingness to trust the imagination, my intuition, my experience as a poet, and my love of original language that penetrates deeper than linear and literal language. By allowing unexpected movement in lines and images the mind becomes more inclusive, discovers connections that would not usually be seen. The mystery of the human condition, to me, can’t be adequately expressed in ordinary language. True, fiction writers tend to use it, but even they, at their best, make leaps, suggest rather than tell. Our speech is a convenience, an agreed upon device for easy communication…There are rules…and on the whole, we abide by them in order to be understood. I’m suggesting, as other experimental poets have, a different use of language. We break the rules…transgress, in a way…which is one of the things that intrigues me. That doesn’t mean, however, that a fragmented or imaginative poem will not communicate. It does mean a stretch on the part of the reader (as it does for the poet) to experience the enrichment of language, the music, and an over-all emotion that underlies the words. As Marianne Moore once said: “If a poem is work to write, it should be work to read.”

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