Thursday, January 6, 2011

Steve Cramer tosses a salad

A cigar is just a cigar, meaning, I believe, that it  still reeks inspite of interpretations of metaphorical worth. Likewise, noise remains noise.  Clangings by Steven Cramer is one such noise.I am leery of poems that explain what the title refers to , as it more often than not indicates a writer who is trying to let himself off the hook when confronted with a suggestion that the work , once inspected, not only fails to make sense in the literal , but fails at even providing a sense of anything beyond its own grammatical complications."...dissociated ideas conveyed through similar word sounds..." is what we're told this all means, and I say very good, you bet, but there is no poetry here, just symptoms. 

I have been a supporter of  and have argued vigorously for the work of difficult poets who offer a language, elongated or terse, from Eliot, Silliman, Dickins to Armantrout and David Lehman, who have a variety of ways of challenging the reader with efforts, experiments and projects that stretch and extend the power of metaphorical language .The difference between they and Steve Cramer's poetry is that this week's poet prefers spontaneous gush of short circuiting word salad while the others , speaking in the parlance of jazz snobbery, made better note choices. Uncivilized as it may sound in some quarrelsome corners of the small room that constitutes the poetry world, I can't shake the idea that the writing of poetry is  in the best sense heroic, where the mundane, nettlesome and lethal aspects of one's aspects serve not merely as the stuff to be treated solely as figurative snapshots of one's passing through their years as an imperfect , but rather of transcending those  matters and offering something that can be shared other than a grousing regret. Cramer is inclined to consider  speech , in itself, a poetry, as the results can, at times, resemble either habit of mind.  There needs to be something more. Cramer didn't bring it home.

 Every thing is there , suggested, run through associative puns and the like, but this is private without being alluring. It reads, I believe, as if it were the transcript of an intake interview for psychiatric ward. What might make for a good start for a therapist makes for a turgid grind for the reader to make sense of, with little reward for real music, sweet or artfully dissonant.

Cramer, I'm sure, is an honest writer, but there just isn't that extra dimension here to make this read like more than transcribed gibberish; poetry is an art and art, although it may be derived from mundane materials and the fetters of human existence, needs to be compelling beyond an explanation of how it came to be. What in the poem is a starting point for a discussion about how the language transforms a set of assumptions, does the rare thing and encapsulates a state of being that is problematic?  My guess is that we would be in a mood to discuss the sociology of the poem, the tropes and issues that go into making this standardized bit of alienation rather than have an operation that tried to appreciate the lyric qualities.