Sunday, July 27, 2008

Patricia Young's "More Watery Still"

Patricia Young's 1993 poetry collection, More Watery Still, colours with anecdote and reminiscence a warm mix of sexuality, commonplace aesthetic appreciation, and familial pangs. It's always a danger speaking in the authorial "I" when the experiences are straightforward rather than a lever for metaphor, but Young manages, through honest emotion, arresting and lucid images and attention to demarcations of personality, to infuse her reveries with, what could easily have sunk to the banal and bathetic, moving collisions of people at circumstantial cross purposes.

The volume's first two efforts -- "When The Body Speaks To The Heart It Says" and "Tobacco Jar, 1867" -- are unusual for what follows: complex paeans to the body (the former-- "Waist-deep I stop in salal, I am trying to be /ruffed as a grouse") and to beauty/art transcending harsh reality (the latter--"This is a tobacco jar though we've always used it for honey").

In these suffocationg decades of mistrust of emotion -- no, of derision for even the possibility of experiencing deep feeling, let alone being able to convey it in affecting encryption -- it's wonderful to read a poet who not only seems to not argue against the obsession with dryness, with insoluble elliptical language games, but who seems blissfully unaware of that faddishness masking as profundity. In fact, I admire and even envy those poets who insouciantly write their poems without reference to those needless agonies, and I support that it's not only not necessary to know a thing about the contemporary history of such, but that it even saves time and angst negotiating with its existence in abstract inconsequentialities.

So "bravo!" to Young when she lays down lines such as "it's my fierce attitude you hate,/O my girl, I/hate it too" and "...I am crazy/for your kisses, the way/you dole them out/like Black/Magic/chocolates ...". Some, perhaps many, would scoff at the sentiment, and it's true that these, and other lines, won't ever be enshrined in a "Best Of ...." modern anthology, but I like the proportion, the clever depiction of fleeting memory, sharply etched. As against so many of what I've been reading lately, Canadian poetry where the strain to be ineffable on every line becomes nauseous, these are lines that ask to be experienced with a little salt, a little lemon, and a little sun, pleasing, and lingering for a while, perhaps to be recalled in a future idle outdoors moment.

8 comments:

Toast said...

Good god, man, what does, "I support that it's not only not necessary to know a thing about the contemporary history of such, but that it even saves time and angst negotiating with its existence in abstract inconsequentialities" mean? Are there abstract inconsequentialities more abstractly inconsequential than that there sentence you just posted? If there are, I support them.

Lloyd Mintern said...

It seems obvious to me that Brian is MOCKING Patricia Young and her awful poetry.

brian palmu said...

Hey, toast, thanks for the link. (As the old saying goes, say anything you want about me, but just remember to spell my name correctly. There is no middle "j".)

Ha. You missed the finer irony. Hard to talk about abstraction in terms other than convoluted, elliptical, self-referential, nebulous, inexact, overblown, waywardly allusive.

And I don't even own a theasaurus (for those who want to further bore us).

Toast said...

Jeeze, I really did miss that finer irony. That's pretty fine. Is it also hard to write that badly?

brian palmu said...

I pick 5a from your litblog guide.

C'mon, toast of the town, toast with the most, "you're toast", toes tupping your ass, you can do better than this. Your admirable cynicism, in an ironical call to attention, is charming (though vacuous), sort of like a 5 year-old who doesn't get his way when the adults don't laugh at his antics.

Maybe in a future incarnation you'll have the courage to paste your real name for the world to see. After all, if you're going to be the "saver of literature and perspective" from those laughably inflated blogs, the least you could do is include your optative droppings-for-posterity into the mix.

Toast said...

It's a genuine question, Brain: why do you feel authorized to pass judgment on other writers when your own prose is so very awful? It is. It's ghastly. So why?

brian palmu said...

Ah, yes, the "why do you comment on others' writing when your own is so poor?" ploy, also known more infamously as the "when did you stop beating your wife?" line.

Which naturally brings up a question of mine: are you a prosecution lawyer releasing pent up bile from his soulless twelve hour a day court sentence?

But then that would mean revealing a part of yourself, wouldn't it? You're much safer hurling rocks, and then cowering, unseen, behind your cybertree.

The sourness of your blog is depressing, the initial writing of it (I imagine) somewhat akin to spreading (before ingesting) dung on your toast, mistakenly thinking it was peanut butter.

Toast said...

It's not clear to me what difference it would make to your prose if I revealed any details about myself or my motivations. Of course I'm a sad miserable troll; it's an illness, but you're the disease. So, again, why do you feel like you're fit to judge the writing of others?