11.26.2004

We are in escrow on a house in Lafayette Square.

Just found out that there is a kind of almond cookie called Mandelbrot. And that Mandelbrot means "almond bread." A perfect snack for fractal heads.

11.22.2004

Amy Newman
Camera Lyrica
alicejames books, 1999
ISBN 1-882295-24-2

In Camera Lyrica, Amy Newman defines a variety of visual lyric, a poetry where the eye is the lyric subject of the poem. The famous dictum of writer Christopher Isherwood, “I am a camera” is obliquely referred to the Camera Obscura where obscura, although in this usage generally means “dark” must surely also point to the risk of the lyric (“light”), which is obscurity.

In the first section of Newman’s book, which is about painting, the poem, “Travel Diary” carries an epigraph from Charles Wilson Peale about good painters seeing beauty in all that they see. It begins, “Just like that / the opening of an eye….” But the poem ends embroiled in a concern with alphabet, letter / figure / character, as does the penultimate poems in the book, a poem in sections, “A Brief Note on the Type.” Numbered sections are followed by sections labeled “[detail],” and the placement of this poem so close to the author’s copious notes at the end of the slim volume is no accident: the researched detail in these poems, like the appearance of letters rather than the letters themselves, stands in for true emotion, or meaning: “distorts the afternoon so Sans serif…” (p. 57) “lucky and beautiful Lithographia…” (p. 59).

The poem “Bringing Desire to the Fields” ends the book by bringing lyric metaphor to a fictional narrative from Carl Jung. While the reader is directly addressed with a confession that the writer may have fallen in love with the male character, in the last line, the woman in the story lights up like the lyric or the motive for the text:
“she lingers, lit up like a votive.” (p. 64).
Jeanne Beaumont
Curious Conduct
BOA Editions, 2004
ISBN 1-929918-51-8

Jeanne Beaumont urged me to write some of my real reviews here or WHEREVER instead of the recent non-reviews. I will put this up at Amazon as a reader review too.

CURIOUS CONDUCT is Jeanne Marie Beaumont's long-awaited second book, following her 1996 NAtional Poetry Series - winning volume, PLACEBO EFFECTS. As her titles indicate, Beaumont tracks the ways human behavior, like poetic content, shivers free of formal and codified conscious understanding but cannot elude true poetry. The hallmarks of Beaumont's writing are clear rhetoric, measured phrasing, and a subtle sound that's round in the mouth. Descriptive lists of her nominal topics and various approaches through form and experiment get a little wacky: Jon Benet Ramsey meets early American mourning folk art; Bonnard greets Ionesco; both Snoopy and Italo Calvino are included under this "big tent." There's a sexy poem about a girl with a parasol:

"raw hand to the tusk, sliding up the varnished pole
great skirt of the thing flying open -- hoop
braid trim quivering there"
"Her Parasol," p. 15

and a scary terrorist poem that started out being about the sorts of accessories available at a dream five and dime ("of the last 5&10 / in America"), but ends:

" ...it's given
nothing away Now take your pocketbook home
hold it respectfully trembling in your hand
like one singled out by a terrorist."
"Accessory," p. 66

The poem is important, because it very quietly shines light on a loopy, feminine, working class, but very commercial "American Way of Life," even as it calmly associates an ars poetica (what is a "pocketbook" really), commerce, and sex (the woman is the purse).

The poem is dedicated to Terri Ford, about whose WHY SHIPS ARE SHE -- I think that's another in process review I'll just throw here. It has been too long.

CURIOUS CONDUCT begins "It was a dark and stormy night..." and ends with Joseph Cornell's star boxes. Thus the luminous details and observations are carefully arranged in Beaumont's wunderkammer of a book.