Urgent Forms / You Crush Me / Sleeping With the Dic

A friend of mine from work who reads my blog but, I think, prefers to remain anonymous, left me a verbal comment on my post about how my prose poems tend to be intense little love poems. She said (and "she" doesn't give anything away, since my office is full of women, and yeah, a few guys too) prose poems have a built in urgency to them because the speed with which they progress somehow relates to intense emotion. I thought it was a brilliant idea and I've been thinking about it ever since.

To contrast, though, I've experimented with writing around some of the recent grief I've felt and I've had the opposite response:
my poems are filled with

wide open spaces and

broken phrasings.

I want to say here, again, publically, that I really enjoyed Richard Siken's Crush. It had that sort of horrific reality that Brian Teare cultivated in The Room In Which I Was Born coupled with a dense, filmic eroticism and a palpable neurosis. I loved the way many of the poems appeared on the page. I feel like I always say this when I read a book that revolutionizes me, but: it's been a long time since I've been so affected by a book of poems.

I recently finished reading Harryette Mullen's Sleeping With the Dictionary, which I generally enjoyed. Some of the long list poems got tedious to me, but I sense that hearing them read out loud would make them more manageable. While reading the Mullen I was concurrently reading Matthea Harvey's Sad Little Breathing Machine.

Both books employ a sort of linguistic playfulness, but Mullen's to me seems more successful. I enjoy Harvey's poems, but I feel like they don't necessarily speak to me. Harvey's poems seem to be more about what they veil rather than what they reveal, while Mullen is employing language in a way that reveals what is cloaked. I don't mean to diametrically oppose them, but I don't think they're "opposites" (whatever that means), but there does seem to be both a great affinity and a wide divide between them.

Harvey's poems have a sort of childlike innocence about them, a misreading of the world. Mullen's work is informed by politics, justice, and the sense that language is not our escape but our chain-link fence.


  1. Have you read Shattered Sonnets by Davis? I think you might love that.

  2. CJ: I concur about HM's Sleeping with the Dic: what a tremendous book. It influenced me a lot, not just the word play/constraint-based writing, but how she weaves a political-social perspective into it, and can make me laugh at the same time. I heard her read in Seattle in 2003 (?); she has a wonderful personality, and a lilting song-like reading voice.