Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Poetry and the "New Senility"

At least once a week I receive an e-missive in my mailbox from Poetry Daily. It had been a while since I last visited the site, but hope, as they say, springs eternal. The frequency of my visits had declined in recent months because I kept finding less and less to bring me back. Yesterday was to prove to be no exception.

Clicking on the link I found two poems by Stefanie Marlis recently published in the Chicago Review:

Transsexual Fall

Living behind windows shaped to catch the rain
(a house in me)
I long for someone who no longer is though isn't not
the signal a breath
fluttering against my own
red leaf
(an old friend can not keep from smiling as he confesses
his eyesight's failing)
the thrall of change
as summer slips unnoticed into fall

Transsexual Cloud

all through this metamorphosis we hunt for therapies burly reasons
ours, a knot that does not slip thunderclap
yellow basin settles behind a cloud lemon blouse carries the trash
only curly leaves befuddle me and you were a chiseled man
so long

©Stefanie Marlis/Chicago Review

My first thought upon reading these two "poems" was how wonderful it is that the Chicago Review should publish the works of recovering stroke victims. The lack of grammar, scansion, the series of nonsequitors, the erratic spacing and utter lack of sense would lead one to believe he was reading the work of someone who had suffered severe damage to that part of the brain controlling language.

Of course, you would be wrong. Ms. Marlis and her ilk are considered "serious" poets; or, at least, to the fans of such poetry. You have seen them if you have attended a poetry reading in the past decade: their navels proudly displayed and pierced: festooned with colorful tattoos that would make a Pictish chieftain green (or should I say, blue) with envy, chattering away in that curious gurgling argot of MFA programs and post post feminism. These are the people who can actually say "ongoing hegemonic appropriations" with a straight face and many of them have probably named their cat Sappho.

This is what much of contemporary poetry has become - words on paper - no rhyme, no reason, simply words on paper. The whole thing has the feel of word magnets tossed on the refrigerator and has been passed off as a joke.


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