Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What Is the Poet Trying to Say?

If there's a question that puts poets' teeth on edge it's that one.  It suggests that we're drooling incompetents who just can't articulate something so we decide to rhyme.  I'm thinking about poetry this morning because I've been reading Albert Goldbarth.  But I'd be hard put to tell anybody what Albert is trying to say.  He's having such a wonderful time on the page that meaning (in the high school English class sense) is irrelevant.  One of the blurbs on the back of Across the Layers  says he has a "rage for language."  I'd second that.  Billy Collins has a deep affection for language and Barbara Hamby -- with a chair and a whip -- can make it do tricks.  But "rage" is a good word for AG's work.   If Albert were writing this he might go from "rage" to "ragged," from "ragged" to "ragtime" from there to "raglan sleeve" to God-knows-where.  He's as much musician as poet, starting with a familiar melody then seeing how far he can roam without forgetting where he came from, and finally bringing it all back home and parking it in the driveway.

Take a look at any Goldbarth collection.  You won't be sorry.

1 comment:

  1. I used to read his chapbooks ages ago when I helped out at Greentower Press. Thanks for the mention -- I really need to see what he's been up to lately!