Monday, September 5, 2011

Raisin Bran in the Sink

A few years ago, I was talking with J---- about form. He was embittered towards formalist poetics, or perhaps this notion of a poem with a particular shape, toward which the poet would direct his or her language, and the poem was the result of that language taking shape in the repeatable form. Interesting enough the poets invoked in that conversation, when I really was still making my survey of "what was going on right now," that those poets have been those I now return to again and again.
At the same time, a few years ago, browsing the independents, having received the issues of SCORE magazine that introduced me to so much of this strange edge- I came across rOlling COMBers by John M. Bennett (Potes & Poets). If I was at this point looking for language acts and events at their strangest, I was piqued. Bizarre fonts, even more bizarre handwriting ("writhing"), a dramatis personae of combs, foam, and stains, a mise-en-scene too aware of the mess of ink it is the remains of.
There are a few different "forms" at work, vaguely similar shapes or tendencies to the event that groups the language together. Sometimes it's word-parts capitalized to write hidden messages within the poem. Other times it's words vertically entering and subsequently sharing other letters in the paragraph. The vague groupings blur with each other to make new forms, and yet each poem, as well as each form, remains distinct though related. More like categories than series. Similar to each other, but not to any other work by any other poet I have encountered.
It's source is the skull, and the method invokes what I've seen referred to as the "swarm of being." Being being our presence in the repetitious, abject stuff that stuck to the drain? That language amkes ever the more multiple- that is language likened to thought. I've liked him to an e.e. cummings of the back of the head. Another poet who contemporary moderns don't seem to think much of. Is it too ubiquitous? Too familliar, in the end (which is a strange claim to make for e.e.c. or j.m.b.)?
Back again to the question of form- John is, to my knowledge, the most prolific poet working by hand, type, sound & video living. I have gotten three to five new poems from him almost every day for a couple years, and that's, I know, just what he is sharing on this poarticular listserv. Part of his ability to do this must be his interest and intensity at devising forms (poetic in their own right) and exhausting them, or if he's not exhausting them, cracking them open and creating new forms.

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