Magazines #4

More Rabbit 1

Colour version of a b/w photograph by Nicholas Walton-Healey in Rabbit
Colour version of a b/w photograph by Nicholas Walton-Healey in Rabbit

Tim Wright's poem (see previous post, Magazines #3) plays off a fusion of open field and New York poetics pioneered by poets such as Laurie Duggan and Pam Brown; yet 'Suns' subscribes to neither, nor is antiformalist in the way of his precursors. Rather, I suggest Wright is conceptual, aformalist, in employing a kind of relaxed proceduralism. Which might sound like Ashbery by another name - yet the poem produced is unlike Ashbery's - for one thing, the tone is very different, its play both more random and more active.

Another poet from the same issue of Rabbit 1, Sam Langer, can be read in the same spirit, yet his very different, and much more dispersed 'The Last Few Days' is cooler (in tone) than 'Suns' (!), and begins like a collision between Bruce Andrews and a minimalist bucket factory called Lautréamont Wieners Pty Ltd or similar. Like Wright however, there is a restlessness of form, as if control is not about the shape of the poem but its gesture. Its second-line pun 'prowing gains' might parody a sensitive-but-we-rock ballad: it might also parody Creeley. Despite the jokes, there's a pathos to Langer's poem that fulfills its title. I don't want to give the impression that this is an exemplary postmodern poem (even if it is), its constellation of influence pastiching its 'inarticulate hatred' through Carlton (a Melbourne suburb). The pleasure of reading this poem for me is the way that this constellation operates in such a way as to make my previous reading come to life - a little like recognising the subtle purchases of another opshop / outerspace boutique habitue (like Denton Welch perhaps, whose alternative to O'Hara is evoked for me in: 'time passes/touching my face all night and day'), and then life rebeginning in a new dimension, with new post-digital technologies.

This is both silly and genuine. Langer redoes the long collage poem while still keeping it up close and personal, partly through performative punctuation and spacing, partly through the immediacy of its meta-commentary: 'Poems written from the perspective of a wooden post, et cetera.' If these poems were all about verbal expression, they could be compared to Rimbaud - or, after all, Olson. But as Langer claims the post-position, it can only be parodic in terms of concepts like breath or open field. We are left asking whether the post is attached to anything ... A dada placed somewhere between 'Medievalism' (Catweazel as poet?) and 'home and away' (a local long-running soap opera) - Langer's poem may be post-faced, but it is never po-faced, not even poker-faced. Unlike Gaga, neither Wright nor Langer seem to want to rule the world. Talent drips from them like birdlime from a wire.