Sunday, July 22, 2007

Time-Tested Press

I've been in Rhode Island. My Grandma's garden is rather mind-blowing. I bought a disposable camera and took pictures of the garden as well as the 500 ribs my brother bbq-ed last night, so now I just to finish the roll and get them developed. Luckily, there are no pictures of me being roped into & playing beer pong with my brother's friends. Safe. There was a midnight game of Lawn Mower Chicken that was not so safe, but my brother's friends still have their arms attached to their torsos so all is well.

My grandma wanted to know what some of my friends do & I happened to have a copy of Massey's Property Line from Fewer & Further so I showed it to her. She basically reviewed the chapbook for me, so I'm going to post below some of her comments, slightly paraphrased. You'll need to imagine that an 84 year old Jewish Atheist is conveying these thoughts to you:

[Grandma turns book over, touches cover, then feels the first few pages. She reads the first poem out loud.]

-"What's impressive is how well the form of the books fits the form of the poems, or vice versa. If the book were larger, the poems might get lost on the page or there might be more than one poem per page, which would detract from the attention they each deserve. It has an organic hum, the font color catches the ripeness of the berry-laden hill in the first poem."

[Grandma takes a sip of Scotch with six rocks; reads 3 more poems to me.]

-"There is both a fierce energy to his poems as well as a subtle elegance. As though he crawled inside a large honeysuckle bush and is simultaneously sitting cross-legged over the roots near its base & meditating, but than also shaking the thin branches so that people walking by turn their heads away from each other and pay attention to the greenery."

[Grandma reads this poem out loud again:]

whisk the rifts

dusk dims
between leaves

on the tree
whose name

I refuse to find.

-"What draws me into this poem are the small movements that then become magnified. Birds brush by and stir the negative space between leaves like icing. Then dusk, which I normally think of as a consequence of another action, is given the capacity to take this negative space and change it's color. And Massey selects words so carefully, it's as though he's arranging flowers in a vase for a party where they'll be the center of attention. The "i" sound in whisk and rifts carries the second line of the first stanza and then the "sk" of whisk connects with the dusk of the second stanza and so on, so that the poem never loses momentum, it's never still or merely observational."

-"The poems I respond to the most are the ones like this, where the organic and the human intersect. These are the poems that seem more complicated. It's not just a tree, but a tree "whose name / I refuse to find." At first I thought it was an angry rebellion, but then it felt more that Massey was bringing our attention to the idea that we do not need to know the name of everything in order to enjoy it on the most basic, and probably most important level. The refusal is both an act of defiance but also an act of devotion."

[Grandma puts down the chapbook.]

-"I think your friends should come here and see my garden."

I think you're right. Thank you, Grandma.


K. Silem Mohammad said...

I think your grandma needs to start a blog. Or better yet, be hired as poetry reviewer for a major national publication. If there were such a thing.

Jess said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jess said...

Your grandma is a hip lady.