A (Slack Buddha Press, 2009), 32 pp., $5.00—As the title/ lay-out of its cover indicates, Finlay’s book is a collection of mesotic poems, twenty-five, “about” mostly Chinese teas. Both the vertical form and terse, direct, language echoes lyric, that is, imperial, Chinese poetic sensibilities, particularly those influenced by its Buddhist and Confucian traditions. The beautiful design of the chapbook, the fourteen and sixteen pt. fonts, all indicate that this is a book to be viewed as much, perhaps more than, read, horizontally and vertically.
PennSound is now making available a new page of Vachel Lindsay recordings — many dozens of them. They are some of the oldeset materials in this archive. The editor of the Lindsay page is Chris Mustazza. He has described the project under whose auspices these recordings were first made onto aluminum disks. They were subsequently dubbed to reel-to-reel tapes by the Library of Congress in the 1970s. These digitizations are made from the reels, which are stored at Columbia University. We at PennSound are grateful to our colleagues at Columbia for making these unique recordings available. This is far and away the largest collection of Lindsay recordings.
First, some a priori statements. A poem is made out of language. Language arises out of need; most of our basic communication needs are denotative. Poets play with language in ways that other language users don’t (and when they do, we might say that such use of language is poetic).
So I will be doing rather rapid, on the move, mini-reviews, mostly of chapbooks, although I will sprinkle in several books, over the course of twelve weeks here at Jacket2. The title of what I will view as a column-cum-blog is Hunches, Hedges, etc. a title meant to emphasize the tentative, preliminary, judgments under various constraints (other writing projects, the format of the particular work for Jacket2, etc.). However cautionary these writings, they do perform a service: appetizers for potential readers. This particularly true for the chapbook reviews. I don’t mean that the chapbooks are themselves tasty nibbles of some luscious entrée to follow (i.e., a book), though some chapbooks do, in fact, function to do so. Rather I mean that I want to introduce readers to authors they may be unaware of, authors they might be willing to take a chance on. In that sense these hasty generalizations are modest introductions. Of course, in the disparate field that is contemporary poetry, I cannot, and will not, presume that some names are either obviously well-known or relatively unknown. Instead, I am simply wading through my “to be read” stacks, pulling out chapbooks, books, pamphlets, often with a grimace (“oh yeah, right, I did say I’d get back to such and such.”), grin (“can’t wait to dive into this one!”) or, just as often, stoic non-expression (“well, here goes nothing…”).