Thursday, April 16, 2009

the cruelest month review series #8

it was a beautiful day. too good to be cooped up in the cube all day. so at lunch we walked over to the local mall to get out into the sunshine, breathe some fresh air -- and more that several hundred pounds of car and diesel exhaust -- shouldered our way to an open table and simply sat. or at least i did waiting for my companions to make their way to the table.

in the meantime, i opened my backpack as i thought of a most excellent title for a manuscript that i've yet to put together, much less work on, but i thought, man!, i think i've got enough poems for a full-length book now, so perhaps i should start putting something together. but what to call it? i had a song on loop in my head this morning. that song was 'dance away' by roxy music. i still have looping within my brainpan as i type. yep, that's it, my book shall be known as DANCE AWAY. i can't think of an argument against it. but then to put this monkey back in the barrell i thought about it and then wrote an alternative title in the moleskin when i got home tonight after a long walk home. i picked up nicholas from daycare and i walk to his school, about a 45 minute walk, then we walk home together which takes another hr. it really is a short walk, about 20 minutes, but with a very inquisitive 4-year-old who stops at every third step to look at birds, bugs, moss, lichen, bees, trees, flowers, garbage, old gum, bottles, and oh did i mention bugs?, it takes us an hr. back the my alternative title. here it is, brace yourself, are you sitting down? my alternative title is DEATHRAY.

at any rate, as i was sitting by my lonesome among the crowds in a mall on a beautiful spring day i started to rummage thru my backpack. i've not cleaned it out in a long time. i still have brochures and receipts from a trip to london anna and i made in '02. nestled beside these are drafts of poems, class assignments from nicholas's school, the book i'm currently reading, old newspapers, and e-books i've printed out from the web. one of the e-books i'd forgotten about. so i took it out, leafed thru it as i waited for my companions, then set it aside to read again tonight when i got home from work and nicholas was in the bath.

actually, it's not an e-book so much as a pdf from blazevox of a selection of poems by michael sikkema. since blazevox also published the poet's first book, futuring, i suspect that these poems are culled from that book. i first read sikkema in the journal the tiny a couple of years ago. rather than resort to the cliched, i was blown away, by sikkema's poems i knew i was reading a bright young talent.

the selection that i had printed, tucked away in my backpack, and re-read tonight confirmed that. these are mininalist, elliptical pieces that are not like anything else quite written at the moment. i wouldn't go so far by saying that sikkema is sui generis, but i'd be hard-pressed to place him firmly within any single tradition. a quick glance thru google for more texts by sikkema i see that another poet-blogger places sikkema somewhat in the eigner-grenier tradition. that seems about right, esp, how sikkema's lines drop and elide into the next using the space of the page as if it were a frame of film or a canvas much like eigner did with his texts.

even if some of sikkema's poems move like eigner's pieces the younger poet subjects are -- oh i don't know -- somehow more homey and even more alien than the late poet. for me, pinpointing sikkema's meanings is damn near impossible. these are poems that resist the paraphrase and neat summary. instead, sikkema's themes plug into technology, geography and the life of a family. take this line from his sequence 'This Form of Life is not Symmetrical':

string of horizon pours into your head kids naked from the bath make crow sounds with crows to become an echo isn't will but matter as music wakes in itself

boy, there's a lot to unpack within that line. first off, i just simply groove on the form of the text, a string of unpunctuated prose that glides into a sequence of images. again, like a frame of film as it composes a long shot of the dusky horizon.

there's much made within these poems that i re-read the selection twice tonight. i've not read sikkema's book but if all the poems are like these selections then it will be first-rate. i've only glossed on these poems. i suggest you read them yourself. you can find the pdf here.


At 4:44 AM, Blogger gina said...

Woo-hoo! Sikkema is an excellent poet whom I have known for many many years now, and I am glad to see him getting this attention. Thanks for sharing this, Richard!


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