As a teacher, anything I read is fodder for the classroom, absolutely anything that nudges some unsuspecting 17 year old to think a thought he/she never imagined thinking. As a reader of poetry, I prefer to read work that shows me what poetry is in the process of becoming, that challenges my notions of what a poem is, of what reading is, of who I am as a reader. I only find these in post-avant poetries. But as a teacher, I read with a different audience in mind, with different expectations. I read to find poems that are about inter/intrapersonal issues, poems about place, the InLand Northwest, about people, poems with transparent, immediately accessible language, but also with a depth worth plunging into, worth re-reading. About twenty percent of my reading then is from the School of Quietude, a body of work my students respond to, especially poems about place, about our places near vast forests and often inaccessible terrain.
I know when I first envisioned this sporting contest (January 10, '04) between the post-avant and school of quietude, I was thinking football, but that season’s done. I’m now smelling oil on leather, stretching my hamstrings, trying to pick up the spin from the pitcher’s release point. Find two poems below, from two “Bobs,” taken from my readings of this afternoon. Tell me which one’s a hit for you.
First, from the School of Quietude:
The Afterlife of Moose
for Stephen Dunn
As the moose is obsessed, relentlessly
and with little or no variation, with food,
safety, and procreation, I am myself
obsessed of late with God, though by God
even I am uncertain What or Who I mean:
the word or the Word in the mouths
of those who use the word as a bludgeon;
the fabulous order of all disorderly things
or the perfect chaos that lives in straight lines;
all the succulent preliminary wines and kisses
or the thrust and plunge and plosive release.
I’ve been watching this particular bull
for a good while now, as he feeds
on the rich new shoots and shrub
by shrub moves slowly through the forest.
He knows I’m here. He eyes me
now and then. This morning I am in his mind
as God never is, and what I wish I knew
is whether or not I envy him that constant absence,
or whether doubt might not be
the source of all I love,
all the shimmer of truth, the flavors of beauty.
Only a fool would see the moose’s life
as easier or less than his own.
As for the afterlife, I’ll take his chances.
- Robert Wrigley
Now from the Post-Avant:
at a glance
hunches latched to
(en francais) “existence”
upwards of two
entattlements that round
supposing present tense
were not (a)round
supposing compost did not heap
in prox of anyflowers
and pretend that there were no
colors anymore just
language to confer
upon sketches in our coffers
the precipice of Pravda
this once a kink in
the smoothed over
use destitutes ab
use / use further strikes
best where once used
record after record
to stabilize (at least)
the tendency to
siloed its way
to favor grasp
Bob (Sheila) Murphy, appearing in SleepingFishzer0