Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Upon Hearing of Another Marriage Breaking Up

Upon  Hearing of Another Marriage Breaking Up  is a poem that reads as if he had been edited with a wrecking ball.  Author Dean Young reads this poem in something much less than a resounding manner--to say that his recitation was sing-songy would be a comparative compliment. And it would be a lie, at least of the sort you tell your ordinary friend with artistic manners so to not hurt or offend them. What the poet offers on this soundtrack has the flat, expressionless timbre of someone in shock, before they passed out from the loss of too much blood. 
As a poem nominally considering the dissolution of "another" marriage--it's implied that the narrator has had a number of couples in his social circles disband their unions and that he his tired of it, bored with it, angry, perhaps , that they don't appreciate his standard of the good life--the poem considers not tragedy or heartache or the sullen self-recriminations and lashings-out , but rather the notion that insane lack of passion and a profusion of mired boredom proves a fatal combination for the soul. 

The passing details, like junco feathers, dog food, bat wings, other people engaged in public affection, or at least public cooperation, are things regarded with an off side glance, in peripheral vision. The narrator sounds like someone who is had has made ennui their kingdom and , in the course of applying the psychology as philosophy, cannot truly grasp the world and the people , places and things in it. There are murky attempts to address what is clearly seen with poetic indirection, what is not entirely broken down or entirely caked in mud remains clean and useful, what makes no noise makes no problems and is perfectly okay to remain as it is, not bothering me with petty detail. The moral of this story is that the narrator, a witless husband, an Asperger's tainted poet, is unaware of the world as is and cannot see that his universe is falling apart; the flimsy assumptions are flaking , bending, curling up, cracking, blowing away . 

An ambitious scene to undertake,but it is a pity that Young cannot give you a sense of the life that is lacking in this narrator's existence. He writes as compellingly as he reads aloud. The best compliment I can pay this that this sounds like a third rate imitation of Ron Silliman's and Rae Armantrout's work; the two of them are Language poets, a school that is controversial even to this day. But think what you may, there remains strong poetic styles behind each of their work, a shrewd and hard intelligence working in their seeming obscurity. Young is merely oblique. His accomplishment here is that he cannot make you care much for his poem about not caring.Humor is evident when there is laughter. Otherwise it is attempted humor; what Young often does is attempt to engage a habit of speaking that results in ambiguity and unintended irony. This is the sort of banter the hip geek humanities major with a hard dose of reconstituted deconstruction allegedly indulges in more often than not, a pile on of dead signifiers and post-Tarantino prolixity to obfuscate a simple request, command or observation. 

The results, I'm sure, are often hilarious to a circle of friends tuned to the same punch lines or who have seen the same movies, the same books, the same tv shows, but if humor isn't able to reach beyond the camp fire circle and hit a broader population with funny bones, it is merely snark and sarcasm, regardless of apologetic explication. This is not to say that poetry need be as clear as sports writing; but sometimes a muddle in a poem demonstrates , for me, muddled thinking , a consciousness without an apparatus, a useful style. The muddle thinking goes beyond what the poet writes,though, as seen in the critical vocabulary that makes the production of the weak tea Young okay. The ought to cease that practice and so stop the insanity.

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