Tottering State

Tom Raworth, Author O Books $15 (231p) ISBN 978-1-882022-38-0
Ranging from his debut, The Relation Ship, to his major long poem Writing, this tottering federation gives us a colorful, resonantly sunlit look at the earlier work of a British writer who has long been championed by Robert Creeley and the more recent American avant-garde. A cerebral, Beckettian sense of the absurd comes through most clearly in the early work's precise imagery, modification of the moods of conversation and surrealist dives into domestic illogicality, which arrive at just the right moment to both deepen sentiment and render it more painterly: ""now the pink stripes, the books, the clothes you wear/ in the eaves of houses i ask whose land it is// an orange the size of a melon rolling slowly across the field."" Later poems, which branch out into more sophisticated structures, seem to have a direct line to a near-Buddhist plainness of observation. The long, slender word streams in poems like ""That More Simple Natural Time Tone Distortion"" push the once-retreating poet into more directly politicized, yet more paratactically split-screened moments: ""slow/ low/ thump/ long flame/ dry/ flash bur/ just/ move/ tree browns/ to south/ our horse/ white/ no trace/ of action/ in memory/ and fear."" If Raworth's varied use of extreme forms throughout the book suggests a relationship to the American Language poets, it is there. But one cannot miss Raworth's intimate and mischievous voice, showing us the here and now in its many dissimulating disguises. (Apr.) FYI: Raworth's Clean & Well-Lit: Selected Poems 1987-1995 (Roof) appeared in 1996. This volume is an expanded version of a collection originally published in 1984.
Reviewed on: 01/03/2000
Release date: 01/01/2000
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