Last night I decided to pick up John Donne and read Epithalamium for Lincoln’s Inn and, of course, The Flea. It’s sometimes such a relief to go back to the modest calm of the Metaphysicals. In Donne, in particular, you get such a contemporary sounding verse that Gertrude Stein (whose Stanzas in Meditation I’m reading now) makes an even greater amount of linear sense. By that I mean, one could easily trace a continuity that informs reading her and the modern imitators. Unlike much of the “mainstream” poetry, there is a strong “sound sense” in Donne and Stein etc, an internal coherence based in sound. Sound is certainly something generally lacking in this current mainstream, at least in the types I am familiar with..it seems the sonic has given way to occasionally the rhythmic or, in the worst case, the contortedly “meaningful” twist-at-the-end story with haphazard line breaks. At least the confessionalism despised by the UB poetics list (and Language poets), was occasionally artful. To sidetrack for a moment, what, aside from his pasted on surrealism and preoccupation with the Cro-Magnon man, sets Clayton Eschleman apart from a confessionalist? The thing I dislike most about confessionalists is their confessions. It’s a type of arrogance to assume that anyone would find their life/family histories interesting. Mr. Eschleman seems to assume we want to know all about his wife, his life, and the debris he can add to the mix.. But I certainly don’t want to criticize Eschleman too much. His contribution to poetry and the arts is highly commendable and I find it a great loss to literary publications that Sulfur went out of circulation. There has, to return, been a significant current foregrounding sound and the sonic qualities of language over the C20th. To my knowledge, Christian Bok is doing/ has done some of the most exciting work in sound, as sound poetry, at the moment. There seem to be a whole host of others, primarily in Canada (?), too, but, please pardon me if I’m not enough everywhere at once (that is to say, I haven’t looked into it yet). Kevin Hehir has a piece available on UBU Web that points in a futurely direction. The ‘score’ is a garbled MA essay he sent to a friend, presumably shredded by an ISP somewhere. Most of the reading is half-formed words, glottal stops, and any other sort of phonic sounds he could lift from the text. Then at some points there is a reprieve, the text that “made it”; text that adds a putatively ‘false’ center’ to the work as an independent text, but that is in fact from a work with a center (the original text).

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