Thursday, January 20, 2005


This blogger did goeth to the GNO reading group last night.

GNO--n a grrls who doth meet at night in the being of out and about and on the topic of poems. See: Micha Boyett, Sarah Harwell, Farah Marklevits, Elissa Nelson, Courtney Queeney, Imogene Wallenfels, & this blogger .

We talked till past the midnight hour on Maurice Manning's Lawrence Booth's Book of Visions. Pleasure taken in the ficitive characters/dramatic personae of the book, the book's projectness, in the ah-ha of recognition at repeated narrative elements across the poems, the exploration of form--lots of lots of sonnets yet along with tasty oddities like a proof, a complaint to the court, a condensed history with dates and such, among others. Agreed 'tis in many respects an ambitious book. Humor. Enjoyed. Yet made uneasy. The use of dialect ruffled my and some others others. Judge W. S. Merwin said that that was just what 'twas supposed to happen. That Manning uses the language of "Amos and Andy" to disturb the reader.

O my bloggerissimo, you decide. Here's a poem in which Lawerence Booth (the book's main character) imagines the words of his now dead friend describing Booth's harrowing childhood:

De shivery blackberry winter day Law turn ten,
Stagger Lee Daddy come home singin drunk again,
say he got somethin extry special fer a boy name Law:
give him a ten-cent box a crackerjack--dat's all;
Mama holler in de kitchen, come see what she make,
an light nine s hinin candle on de ole birthday cake.
But Law run off yonder to de Injun Camp an cry,
hil lil heart so fretful sick he start thinkin sewercide;
he fetch a capgun to de sinkhole an kneel dere on de ground,
den pull de silver trigger an like de echo way it sound.
But Red Doggie whine an git his doggie self afraid,
den lick Law's teary face an save dat terrble day.
Red Doggie nuzzle Law an wag he tail all curl:
Law love he Doggie friend de best in dis wide world.

The character speaking these lines, Black Damon (read: demon, daemon, Damian) is of course an idea, a projection, like Berryman's Mr. Bones, and is meant to be read as such, rather than as a realistic representation. Yet, unlike Mr. Bones, this character lacks 'poetry'--speaks in clichés like "hil lil heart so fretful" and makes no very perceptive observations or interpretations.

"Manning's compelling poems take us on a wild ride through the life of a man child in the rual south. Presenting a cast of allegorical and symbolic, yet very real, characters, the poems have 'authority, daring, [and] a language of color and movement,' says series judge W.S. Merwin."

Real? Hmmm. Authority? Hmmm. Certainly, Manning may be saying with the "DREADFUL" poems, many written in a flat dialect riddled with cliché, that representations by white folk of black folk are too often flat and riddled with cliché; yet, as Immy (I think it 'twas) pointed out, one doesn't make porn to point out how porn objectifies people. Does ye?

Perhaps we're meant to read this clichéd reductive dialect voice as one of the
"...Three feathered
strains of beauty fly[ing] circles in ...[the author's]...heart.
One, the image of the...[thing]... itself, a red-tailed
parcel of perfect pitch. Two, the smell
of the father pretending to be
a steel-eyed radius. Three, a terrible
Presence flapping around the room.

Is the Amos and Andy voice arising out of the oppressive patriarchal tradition, "the father pretending to be a steel-eyed radius"?

What say ye Bloggerissimo?


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