Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Currently reading

It Is Especially Dangerous to Be Conscious of Oneself, a chapbook by Jeff Alessandrelli of Lincoln and, prior to that, Reno. I see shades of Rohrer and Ruefle ... here's the title poem:
Then we enter a low, ponderous country
where the clouds are a series of disparate thoughts
and the rain they insist on reasoning with
a celebration of their hectic musings.
The men are watering the streets anyways.
Luminous, just-fresh, the concrete sparkles;
gum stains and spit stains and every veritable crack.
Do they still call mirrors looking glasses anymore?
Those type of tempered thoughts.
Yo I'm lazy but I'm crazy too
You never know what I definitely might do
threatens the radio, mass-eyed and alert.
Up ahead the mirage is steady and punctual.
We're waiting for a war to begin
or a delectable sweet to eat after lunch.


  1. I think Bill Knott made 75 or so of them through a POD service. I'm not even sure the chapbook is for sale anywhere! How indie is that? The author himself gave me one.

  2. Knott has an interesting little post on Alessandrelli at his prose blog, one that shows his interest in content. He gives a link to some A. poems--
    --and then asks why A. writes in a consistent tone but a variety of shapes. He speculates that A. "is struggling against his consistency--i.e. his content."

    I find those A. poems very readable, incidentally.

  3. I also wondered about the changing shapes.

  4. Shapeshifting may lend an illusion of variety to poems that are otherwise uniform in tone, content, technique. Like Hart Crane, in "The Bridge," chopping up a pentameter line and scattering the segments down the page to tinge that passage with a patina of experimentalism. Put the pieces back together and you have a pentameter line. I believe Berryman mussed up lines that would've sounded kind of traditional or retrospective. But I don't see anything wrong with getting protean, feeling around for a more arresting look. I get tired of the blocky look of a lot of my stanzas/strophes. Start feeling blockheaded.

  5. When I took a class from Bill Knott he said that you don't learn anything by changing the form of your poem every time. I think there's some truth value to that -- settling into a form, getting to know it, making it your own, etc. Nick Demske's book is a great example of this.

  6. Yeah, that's a great idea, too, just write sonnets like Demske or Denby or Berrigan (for a while, anyway) or Merrill Moore. Every poem is an eye but different from the other eyes. Or you could settle into something like tercets, like late Plath or early James Tate. But I've never been able to stick to a plan like that.

    so did you take a Knott class at Emerson? What was that like?

  7. Mixed results. I think he's brilliant, no doubt, but he lacks tact, to put it lightly, and sometimes it's hard to believe he believes what he's saying.

  8. Sometimes he raises my eyebrows. Until they're brown birds in the sky of my forehead.