The LBC Winter Read This! selection has been announced. Go on over and see the book we'll all be talking about— and check out Powell's 30% discount! Dan Wickett nominated this title and posts today about his selection process. Four more titles will be announced over the next four days, so stand by.
Crucial Rooster: Poetry Column by Reb Livingston
Now that it’s 2006 will the name of this column change to the Dire Dog? No, this old coot[ie] gal is still crowing.
On Monday afternoon (probably right as you read this) I’m having a new furnace installed. My old one went bye-bye Saturday night. Unplanned furnace purchase + usual decadent Christmas expenditures = Broke Rooster. Since I doubt I’m the only one dragging her pillow case of loose change to Coinstar, let’s start off the New Year CHEAP and by cheap, I mean absolutely FREE.
Sure, chapbooks are an inexpensive way to acquaint oneself with a poet, but is there such a thing as a free chapbook?
Thanks to Whole Coconut Chapbook Series editor Bruce Covey, yes, there is such a thing. Not only are they free – but you have a choice, you can read them online or you can print them out on your printer, staple down the middle and be your own Susie Bookmaker. Holding my new self-printed chapbook makes me feel rich – like I just got back from a shopping trip at the bookstore.
Lee’s poems are searing (which comes as a great relief to my shivering, suffering limbs), her lines invoke a sense of lushness and alertness, for example:
quietly we crawl under our covers, three in a bed / the house stands still after hours of unrest / delicate as folding screens these turns burn our faces shut
Mmm, threesomes and hot faces, I’m so there. Ok, the “three in a bed” isn’t what I’m inferring, it’s more likely a young child sleeping with her parents. But since that’s about to become my reality as soon as I’m finished writing this column (tonight we’re sleeping in the basement, huddled around a space heater), I’m indulging in a quick interlude of fantasy and whimsy. I’ve said this before here, don’t get too hung up on a poem’s meaning, it’s not a riddle you have to solve – instead slow down, don’t skim, speak the poems out loud – enjoy the sounds, images and senses the reading unleashes – the meaning will come later.
I want you to remember that when you read Leon’s chapbook. Dear dear fiction readers, nothing makes me want to wrap my small (but unusually wide) hands around your precious throats when I hear “I don’t get poetry” or “I’m not smart enough” or whatever ridiculous excuse you’re serving to explain why you don’t read contemporary poetry. You’ve plodded through Tolstoy, Faulkner, Bronte, Kafka and numerous others, you’re plenty capable enough. It’s all in your approach and we can blame that on a high school English teacher or TV or too much Rolling Rock – it doesn’t matter. It’s easily correctable. Stop worrying about the “meaning.” I’m not proposing these poems have no meaning, not at all. What I'm saying is that’s not where you want to start. Do you look at a Jackson Pollack painting and try to figure out “what is it supposed to be?” Do we judge portraits by how closely they mimic the object? “You know, that Monet guy’s technique seems a little blurry, don’t you think?” Of course we don’t approach paintings in such a way – what’s the point in that? If you want an “exact” representation, pull out a disposable camera and snap away (but remember, the camera adds 20 pounds).
Leon’s poems are unusual, they don’t go where you expect them to go, no you’re not a dope, every line is a surprise, in fact, often the next word is unexpected – it’s a delight. Consider how the poem “Prison Grinder” begins:
The sleeper cells were some luxury. I caribou you. / We began tragedy with comedy. We began avocation./ A pigeon for a pigeon. My silence. / I think it was we who descended a staircase, / were rejected, directly. We confiding in we, / outlining moving picture stills. We on the corner of where.
Wow, I didn’t see any of that coming. Did you? It's like Leon presenting something in a way I've never considered before and it's a little weird, but it's also oddly tender. I'm reminded of a guy I used to know, everything happened and nothing happened . . . I should google him.
When you finish the chapbooks and realize there’s a lot you can get from poems like these, check out the online magazine, Coconut, for more.
I’ll be back in February and remember, no matter what you might hear in the locker room, I caribou you the most.