Showing posts with label Steven Cramer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Steven Cramer. Show all posts

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.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Philosophy of Crap

"Sewage Has It's Say", a poem by Steven Cramer, stinks to the highest reaches of irony, and it's a fine thing too.A monologue in essence, the essence of which is the voice of what we consume processed and reduced to it's fouler essences in turn. This is the food we eat and the drinks we imbibe with all the cosmetics of preparation removed, after all the benefits (nutrition, energy) and debits ( obesity, high blood pressure) have been had. Insulted, railed against, invariably used as a pejorative, equated with the foulest intents and deeds a race is capable of, sewage finds it's voice, it talks back to the world that is other wise obliged to consume and make crap and crud an unavoidable consequence; there is hypocrisy here, the fetid mess proclaims, everything winds up in this repulsive stew:

Give me roots prying into the joints
of your main waste line, Charmin
thickening her web first to a nest,
then to a dam, and I'll sluice in reverse,

top the basement tub and spill
into a poem! Damn! I've sunken
to new heights! Will you take
a hint and stomach your disgust?

What does The Thinker look like
he's doing? How come Luther heard
God's thunderclap of justice via faith
whilst sitting on the privy?

Steven Cramer has an especially acute wit to imagine a dark mass taking on a voice one could imagine being intoned by a hammy Shakespearean actor intent on over-emoting the lines, a misunderstood and maligned end product talking shop with a product , Charmin, that's ostensibly dedicated to wiping it out. But wipe as much you can, the stinking sludge maintains, you will become part of this flushed proletariat, these breakdowns of food stuffs, fecal encrusted tissues, diapers, sanitary napkins, condoms, illegal drugs and syringes.

At the heart of the matter is that is we really are what we eat, echoing an otherwise stale counter culture cliche, and regardless of how we gussy up the chambers with spray-can aroma, disinfectants , no matter how much art and artifice we set around our dinner table preparations, regardless to what extreme we pervert language to raise our collective self image and have our race be at the top of the food chain, we are in the food chain none the less, inseparable, consuming vast amounts of products to keep the mortal body a going concern, producing waste in all varieties, forms.

You know...where love's pitched his mansion, so
don't shower so much. Squeaky clean's
for mice. No soap's got enough tallow
to wash out the mouth mouthing off.

What made you so ... nice? Polite's
kind of like death, isn't it? Okay, not
quite. But consider this, my sweet kin
in excretion: to flies we taste like candy.

Whether it's The Thinker or Theologians considering the feasibility of a personal God, everything resembles the process of taking a dump, a long and ponderous crap, the moment when every idea one has absorbed in passing finally passes through us, if we're lucky enough , leaving only that bit of nutritional purity that has helped us grow, come up with an idea, an invention, a poem that is truly our own. Steven Cramer's personification of an unspeakable and limitless mass of stinking waste as having a voice to raise in it's irony-citing defense is an excellent bit of wit.

The literary references are less self conscious than such citations usually are since his point is to reduce the space between humanity's greatest conceit as an elevated species and the inevitability of it's least appealing biological requirements. Everything is shit, like it or not, all is waste, the finest poems become sludge. One needs to embrace the fact, if not the cistern that contains the messenger.