Thursday, November 30, 2006

When First Looking Into Bay Poetics

When First Looking Into Bay Poetics: San Francisco Responds
by Patrick Dunagan

Stephanie Young assembles a diverse crew. She “asked friends” and friends of friends. Terrific. I’m certain many a happy gang bang and orgy executed to the enjoyment of all participants slowly came to in just such fashion. Why not? There’s a certain pleasure coming up against the unexpected in such a situation. How did that get here, and whose is it? For myself there certainly is enough work by friends, mentors, and would-be crushes presented in this anthology that I would seriously entertain the thought of attending such a bash.

Ever the purist, I read poetry for poetry’s sake. I adore the gossip and all (Sadly it’s lacking here. I’d really like to know just who is fucking who, or has. Which women prefer women, which men prefer men. To leave it out of the work and distant is such a bore. The only gossip available is gossip about the thing itself. How Williams is that.), but the durability of the work arises from what is on the page alone. I object on general principle to shoddiness. I don’t care whether it comes from Kathleen Fraser erecting her half-corpse of influence to thrust out shoddy imitative Susan Howe or a fellow like Stroffolino bemoaning his lack of “influence” in the poetry/rock/acoustic/radio (which is it Chris?) world taking up space in a text of supposed Poetics. It’s a sacred act for some of us. For others it appears a smudged half-shot for stardom and glory among the living dead of blogs and cyberspace.

Bay Poetics thankfully does however have some surprises: James Meetze, that Whitmanesque failure; Alli Warren, those shifts of line; Tanya Brolanski, someone who actually cares; Cynthia Sailers, finally convincing blocks of verse; Brydie McPherson, somebody read their Oppen; Elizabeth Treadwell, I never knew!; Yuri Hospodar, fun and true, if a bit lite. & of course there are the Disappointments, why even mention: Hillman, Scalapino, Palmer, Cross, Cox, Cole, Koeneke, Nealon, Smith, Tuntha-abas, Kaipa, etc. Here because of time put in or friendships clung to, who knows or cares. & blessedly there are the Solids: Kyger (without doubt up in Bolinas wondering what the hell these people find in her work and how she got tangled up in their company), Ratcliffe, Berkson, Killian, Joron (thank god for his essay, a piece of thoughtful prose that is of actual use), Spahr, Robinson, Murray, Gluck, Ballard, Sigo, and Mackey.

Does this sum anything up? No, of course not. The reader will find her own highs and lows. This list is but the one meant for the city and its lovers. The bay is theirs alone.