tonight was a most fun night. i went with barbara and oscar to to the de young museum in san francisco to hear truong tran, hoa nguyen, and nguyen do read in celebration of the new anthology: Black Dog, Black Night: Contemporary Vietnamese Poetry (Milkweed Editions, 2008), translated by nguyen do & paul hoover. altho i’ve heard truong read now several time (he’s always great) it was my first time hearing hoa nguyen, whose chapbook Red Juice, i’ve read several times because it’s just so wonderful (seriously, go buy this chapbook right now!!!). and her reading style is absolutely captivating–so natural, yet so surnatural, kind of like her poetry. she even signed my copy of Red Juice afterwards (blush). i’ve never read nguyen do’s work before, as he mostly writes in vietnamese (tho he did read a poem in english). for his reading, he read in vietnamese then paul hoover read an english translation. the poems were darkly figurative, yet had moments of hopeful lyricism. i talked to him for a moment after and he seems like an incredibly interesting man.
so i did warn that i would delete anonymous posts, but someone outwitted me (which isnt very hard, admittedly) and commented anonymous on a post before my warning!!! so instead of deleting their comment, i will post it here:
“i think you have gravely misread_______’s poem. at the very least, you have assumed a centrality for his voice – the voice of a child, mind you – which i do not believe the poem itself invites. there’s been a lot of muck slung across the blogosphere about this poem recently, so i was glad to see that someone actually read mr. _____’s work before condeming it. now that i have, i am afraid your reading is no more convincing than the rest.”
i have assumed a centrality for his voice? what does that mean i wonder. are you saying the voice in the poem is the voice of a child? does this sound like the voice of child:
Learn a new language
for fellowship, and when you walk home
through the fields see if you can translate
the gloam-wrapped mountain’s whisper
p.s. dont be so afraid of my unconvincing reading, it wont wade in with clubs, cold as light out of heaven (mind you, that’s the voice of me as a child).
thanks for respectfully commenting.
but gaaaarrrryyyyy, i really need that quarter (jukebox addiction). but i know, i was trying to trick you by expanding the definition of the ‘epiphanic mode’ beyond the I centric narrative epiphanic mode. i think the cha poem very much poeticizes experience…but a kind of experience that has no referent; that is, she poeticizes the signifier itself.
i think poeticizing is a good way to put it, which may run the risk of exoticizing and fetishizing if the author isnt careful (unless, of course, that’s the point).
i love how you characterize the epiphanic poems that you don’t love–so funny. wrinkle lines, thin lines, hand lines.
OMG! thanks for linking to those poems–hilarious! i esp love Grandfather’s Mountain, esp the last line: “Those eyes told me–a carpenter of words I would be.”
yo, i don’t even think if my own grandfather placed his epiphanic hands upon your sensitized shoulder that he could convince you to like those poems. so i won’t even try. keep your greasy quarter!!!
barbara makes a good point: “Nate Mackey’s poetic “we” would be a good example of epiphany/epiphanic poetry not fetishizing experience. At least I do not get the sense from his work that his I/we is/are fixated on the experience as it unfolds in the poems, as mcuh as he/they is/are experiencing the unfolding of word/etymology, his/their relationship to the terrain and its histories, etc.”
in conclusion, there are many kinds of ‘epiphanic poetry’ and there is one kind that makes gary not relinquish his quarter.
one of my favorite passages from Bernstein’s A Poetics:
Too often the works selected to represent cultural diversity are those that accept the model representation assumed by the dominant culture in the first place. “I see grandpa on the hill / next to the memories I can never recapture” is the base line against which other versions play: “I see my yiddishe mama on hester street / next to the pushcarts I can no longer peddle” or “I see my grandmother on the hill / next to all the mothers whose lives can never be recaptured” or “I can’t touch my Iron Father / who never canoed with me / on the prairies of my masculine epiphany.” Works that challenge these models of representation run the risk of becoming more inaudible than ever within mainstream culture.
–this is very funny, yet very problematic because…damn, my 30 is up. keep your comments coming please; they are manna.
p.s. new stuff at the OMNIDAWN BLOG!