… anyway, what was I saying? Oh yeah: lay off my booze! Ah, so busy there I almost missed the verse. Well here it is, right under the wire.
As I was actually saying, last week, R.S. Gwynn is supposedly associated with the “new formalism” movement in poetry. I didn’t know there was such a movement, but there’s an anthology out, so there must be. At the time the movement earned its name–the mid-80’s–critic Dana Gioia remarked that “the revival of traditional forms” was only one of any number of possible responses to a sort of bankruptcy sensed in the poetry of that time… a sort of congeries of tail-ends of several spent strains in verse written in English. And Gioia was by no means disparaging a “return to form” (indeed, he’s been a part of it). Of today’s poet, Gwynn, Gioia wrote,
“By the time I had finished the volume [Gwynn’s The Drive-In] I knew I had come upon one of the truly talented and original poets of my generation. I should probably also note two other obvious qualities of Gwynn’s poetry. First, he is ingeniously funny. Second, he is an effortless master of verse forms. No American poet of his generation has written better sonnets, and very few can equal him in the ballade, couplet, rondeau, or pantoum—not to mention the half dozen new forms he has invented. But, to be honest, it was neither Gwynn’s considerable formal skill nor his wicked humor that first attracted me, though those qualities surely added to my pleasure. Instead, it was his depth of feeling and intense lyricality.”
Yes, he is funny. Anyone who has spent time near a graduate department of English will appreciate this wisp of a poem:
He roared up to the cook-out on his Harley,
Invoking blessings from the Muse of Barley,
Passed round a joint, sliced the brie with his switchblade,
And groped the Chairman’s young wife, all of which made
The pallid tribe disperse with nervous laughter
And grant him tenure very soon thereafter.
And anyone who finds the beauty in late fall (I do not) will like this nature poem that seems to create a mini-refrain for each line. Happy Thanksgiving. -ed.
It will come with warnings published on the air,
Laying bets on gulf-born breezes harboring
Hopes of spring.
Dwarf azaleas, playing suckers’ odds with doom,
Race to bloom,
But the front’s relentless lashing drains each bud-
Full of blood,
Laying low without distinction as it kills
Calla lilies, bougainvillea, mustard greens.
For it means
All beginner’s luck runs sour, to be lost
To the frost,
Like a wealth of unconsidered good advice.
Glazed with ice,
Greenness shatters, brittle as an ancient bone,
And our own
Stunned camellia stands, white petals shed below—
Snow on snow.