Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Exit, stage left

There was a Kathryn Maris poem I wrote about a bit ago, Lord Forgive Me , which I liked because she managed the near impossible, to write about drinking that avoids the predictable bathos, and knee jerk tragedy that clings to the subject matter.

Alcoholism is such a prevalent condition in marrow of our history and culture that it has assumed the worst thinking of nearly any one's heritage. Maris, though, managed to write through her particular scenario without a hint of self pity or the hoary glorification of the outsider spirit being too sensitive to live the world sober. Not lacking a point of view, the poem was free of cant, getting to a complex emotion irresolution without the expected props. She didn't attempt to make anything "happen."  The lack of the expected stage props in the poem made it a tougher vision. It was more powerful as a result.

Her footing is less sure with the current poem she has in Slate, The Witch and Mcduff Exit My Neighbor's House .  (Note: The small "d" in the title's "Mcduff" is as Slate published it. I assume it is the author's preference).This is more ramble than verse, a formless gruel of would be allusions pretending toward irony. Yet another poet finds herself tangled in the learning that was supposed to aid them in discerning the world more clearly, more deliberately. Maris doesn't get her props out of the warehouse where she stores them.

It's a complex trick that she's attempting here, translating a daily set of occurrences in terms of theatre that she's obviously obsessed with, but for all the framing devices she uses to emphasise her boredom, her encroaching ennui, the poem feels false. It seems that she had laid her references out on the floor like they were incidental things--bottle caps, pens, loose change--and tried to connect them in an interesting pattern by linking them with a length of string. It's less a map to this character's divided self--her distance from the actually lives of her neighbors and her being engrossed with the fictional personalities she superimposes on real people--than it is a strained gathering of author names and literary terms.

 Where ever Maris was trying to go with this poem, she did so without a map. Now she's stuck in an awful, indecisive traffic. This is what happens when you try to make things happen without having an idea of what your driving at.