Not since reviewing Saavedra’s “From the Temple Priapus” have I been tossed into such lavish feeling: these five sections from the sequence THE ADRIFT OF SAMUS ARAN, published by gobbet, are absolute jet. They are, I mean, little lignites, spreading sometimes toward high polish (‘i am as strong as the / mouth from which the world hangs’) and sometimes toward the space of tar:
zebes; is for wilting, un black &c foliate.
means descent upon descent, upon
for the wildness of my thoughts
they are like diffusions
I find my method of analysis becoming a kind of critical biography. Why—, I say; What makes this poem so electrifying? I’ll admit Vince and I share a heroine in Samus, and therefore a mythos; and, though said commonality isn’t vital to this poem’s unfurling (Vince’s ‘I’ is ambient, and markers like ‘Zebes,’ ‘Ridley,’ and ‘Brinstar’ are no less foreign-sounding than real-world sites ‘Khon Kaen’ and ‘Cobh’), readerly sympathy is. The Go ahead, you drive is, is.
I want this from writing; I want an imaginative force that can deliver the linguistic in dark waves kin to that imaginative force; I want to be helpless, thrall to Asterism Made—here it is—the poem. Samus becomes quite secondary.
The poem is weird. Really, the poem is queer—let’s sing it, laying claim to its dubious sixteenth-century German origin—queer, from quer, ‘oblique, perverse.’ It marks itself as art, with writing-art’s markers—it resists being a Read-Thing, spoken language written out—when ‘understood,’ erased—and aspires to Being-Thing, bursting into essentially untranslatable (unglossable) symbology. Look at Vince’s use of the ‘&c,’ for example. In the sentence ‘I love those parts of me that are metallic / &c quick coloured,’ the readerly impulse is to reject the c digit completely, ‘understanding’ the ampersand to function as a tool for straightforward adjectival link, modifying the I’s parts; to ‘understand’ quick coloured as quick-coloured, a feasible (if strange) compound adjective. But the written sentence makes protest; it says: CONTEND WITH &c AS ET CETERA, ‘AND THE REST’; CONTEND EVEN WITH THE ORIGINARY LATIN CETERUS, ‘LEFT OVER’; AND BY THE WAY I MEANT QUICK COLOURED AS I WRIT IT, TWO INDEPENDENT DESCRIPTORS OF—?—RELATED BY—?—.
It is a silent, intractable protest. The language sits on the page’s span like a stone. It is to be encountered; like any cairn on a hilltop, you may circumambulate encounter-meant, but cannot subtract stone from span. And don’t you miss something by passing? There’ll be time to get to the village later. This is the poem: encounter the stone.
I’m also interested in moments of Unfakeability in THE ADRIFT OF SAMUS ARAN. Fakery is larruping savvy and precious in contemporary verse, after all—the hanging hard enjambment for telegraphed drama, the dropped-in expletive, the plaintalk-that-pretends-to-reject-high-thinking-but-cannot-think-high. The list method is also a favorite; whole poems are made of darling aphoristic clauses wiggling their fresh-smelling curls. To craft, they require a base modicum of musical interest and something equal to television attendance. Dorothea Lasky, for example, has made a career of this sort of inanity:
Cocktails on Thursday with Sammy—perfect
You know that sweater really does look perfect
That mango salad you made—it turned out perfectly
And that car with your shoes
Godammit that’s perfect
—this fakery is worked in taffy by a professor of poetry at a major United States university, mind. (One of mine own, I wince.) But in Owen Vince’s piece we see two specific moments where list-styling comes good, evincing vision. In the first, ‘Two and ten dark / swallows pitch and yaw above me—they are like air piled on air piled / on winter,’ the speaker manages to both surprise (interject?) with ‘winter,’ and concretize the breadth of her wonder at the flying birds. Concretize—how? What’s its currency? Here: via the Archetypal, I think, the attendant winter we each know and the one we refuse for fear. Even more exciting is this:
I am gripped
by softly pink television dramas. Now i have all of the answers
to their arraignments. I have foreseen every possible problem
you encounter in dining rooms, in hallways, at the head of a
flight of stairs with the fan slowly turning.
Here’s our Read-Thing vs. Being-Thing again, with speakerly instinct transmuting the more contextually difficult ‘arraignments’ into ‘arrangements’ (did you catch yourself?). But also, in line with our talk about lists, note the real cord-pulling that happens when ‘fan slowly turning’ appears. Dining rooms, hallways, flights of stairs, these are fakeable poetic circumstances, house-places just bloated with incidental emotional luggage (luggage a less searching poet depends on for effect); but the interjection (I’m positive of it here) of ‘fan slowly turning,’ an object ubiquitously present in bloated home and simultaneously excised-for-function (it is neither occupant nor place to occupy; it sits beneath notice unless it stops being invisible, viz, ‘needs fixing’) is so inspired that it lassos the previous fakeable circumstances into life, Here. The life of this poem. It is fan-equal of that fan at 708 33rd Street in Lynch’s Twin Peaks; like the rest of Vince’s piece, it is more primary evidence of poetry’s earthen force ‘crouched / in four positions, reverberating’ beneath Pobiz’s shoddy curated surface.