Tough not to find oneself knocked prone by the first seven lines of “New Translation.” This is just the kind of vocabulary that wins me: strong, terse monosyllables bounding in the ear, ‘glitch,’ ‘Luke’ ‘hack,’ ‘glossed.’ ‘Rum misadventure’ is such fun that it nearly spawns a group of pub poems following. More impressive: it took me to about the ‘clunk/monk’ coupling in lines ten and 12 to realize I was on a rhyming trip; and at that point, one can only marvel at the expert work in ‘Luke/lake,’ ‘day/coy.’
Beyond being enlivened by the moments of powerhouse language in “New Translation,” however, I’ve got to turn and return again to the mundane boudoir antics that scaffold the piece, whatever electricity the surface conducts.
I locate the first raveling near that pat-rhyme: ‘Our trial will come, with a banal clunk/certain as a nighttime accident/beneath the sheets of a novice monk.’ What makes rhyming structure so trying to manage in our day is, first, its complete telegraph, and next, that the poet must subjugate his meaning to the whims of the rhythm he’s decided to impose. And here it is, those nighttime accidents between the sheets. So George’s ballasts of language must come blazing full battery to move me from the silliness (read: inconsequence) of what is said—what?—the piss of fear? the issue of a wet dream? A decidedly postmodern monk, I suppose.
But then, this is really what the poem is about: ‘underwear dilates as she roves/into smelling distance.’ Laughable, really. And, suddenly, I’m retracing my steps through the entire piece, questioning how exactly a female ‘roves’ into distance of any kind, how hands have enough time to ‘get clammy’ with the surprise of a ‘clinch,’ and then, finally, ‘the bluff/[is] exposed.’ Can I help a goddamned continued quote? am I not here ‘feel[ing] for the deeper emphasis’?
Stop, Spece. This feels like the George game, the tango in good clothes that’s all about the loins underneath. I could do with some ‘deeper emphasis’ all the way through: the poem is a relative disappointment, to that end. Regaining foothold has its drawbacks.