Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Everyday Genius: Juliet Cook

Juliet Cook's poem, "Pig Trough as Concept" -- posted today in Everyday Genius -- really delights me. Give it a read. Doesn't it strike you like a Mike Young piece in the way that she juxtaposes unusual (though plainly syntactical) sentences about one thing which culminate in a sentiment that is distinctly different from those one things.

Er, uh.

I honestly didn't do a close reading to sense what happens in this poem; I just let myself associate with it and from that association comes the, what, the grist (if you will), and then I allowed that grizzle (um) to be enough in terms of "understanding," and to be part of the thing that is the poem. I guess I'm arguing for an "Against Interpretation"-type reading here, as always. And why not? Otherwise, I'd be reminded of David Orr's condescending article in the Times --
" . . . the trendiest contemporary style, which relies heavily on disconnected phrases, abrupt syntactical shifts, attention-begging titles (“The Gem Is on Page Sixty-Four”), quirky diction (“orangery,” “aigrettes”), flickering italics, oddball openings (“The scent of pig is faint tonight”) and a tone ranging from daffy to plangent — basically, two scoops of John Ashbery and a sprinkling of Gertrude Stein . . ." (link) --
And I'd think, yeah, but come on Tackleberry: it's good. Orr lists these characteristics like they're a detriment, as if to say they're cataloged, so clearly Juliet Cook didn't think of this first -- so what can the value be? A checklist of tropes employed does not strike me as a productive way to read Cook's poem, or any poem.

I don't want to know what's happening in a poem or how it derives its meaning. The fact that it's possible to recognize a good poem means precisely that it's possible to recognize what's good in a poem. Being able to language those elements, though, is a different, often superfluous matter.

In that regard, I've enjoyed reading these essays on negative reviews.

3 comments:

Joseph Young said...

'a different, often superfluous matter.' which is why perhaps it is much easier to say what something is not. which is why perhaps some rely on or resort to the negative (is not) review. we rely on tension to make ourselves clear. tension to what is not or tension to what is.

P. H. M. said...

I am continually delighted by the poetry of Juliet Cook. It is simple enough for uneducated fools like me at the same time that it seems to satiate the vulgarity of higher minded types.

Adam R. said...

Nicely put there, Paul.

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