Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Rae Armantrout's Money Shot and Susan Howe's That This are recent reads. Both are fascinating in entirely different ways.

I've worked on projects with both Rae and Susan and doubt I've endeared myself to either. No matter. We still did good work together.

Of the two books, Money Shot appeals most to my own sensibility. I share Rae's tendency to pare things down to the epigrammatic phrase. I love the way she surfs the zeitgeist for poignant snips of speech to torque and recontextualize. That said, Susan's book fascinates me more.

That This is a book of three section. In the first section, "The Disappearance Approach," Howe's recently (2008) deceased husband, Peter H. Hare is memorialized. In the second section, "Frolic Architecture," Howe collages poems out of the private writings of Lucy Wetmore Whittelsey (the daughter of Jonathan Edward's sister, Hannah Edwards Wetmore). In the final section, "That This," are 7 short poem-segments. Each have 4 lines which are split into 2 stanzas. Except, that is, for the penultimate poem in the sequence. It has 6 lines and exists as a single stanza.

"The Disappearance Approach" is as elegant a meditation on loss as I have ever read. It grounds the book. "Frolic Architecture" is trace and aporia--tattered flags of meaning ripped from the archive (ark hive?). "That This," the title poem--the final poem, is a gorgeous distillation of Howe's metaphysics. I'll leave you with one of the segments:

The way music is formed of

cloud and fire once actually

concrete now accidental as

half truth or as whole truth

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