Jumping the Line (Roof Books)

Ted Greenwald, Author Roof Books $12.95 (116p) ISBN 978-0-937804-77-3
No poet has taken the idea that poetry should be at least as good as overheard conversation as seriously as Ted Greenwald. In his longer collections from the '60s through the '80s (Word of Mouth; Common Sense; and the soon-to-be-reprinted Licorice Chronicles stand out) Greenwald presented enormous catalogues of very plain phrases, sometimes inflected with a tough-guy persona. A former art gallery proprietor, Greenwald invites comparison to minimalist sculptors and installation artists, and it might not be too much of a stretch to connect his cool repetitions with the rise of ambient music. In the '90s, Greenwald's work has ventured into forms such as the triolet and the pantoum, and his deadpan deferrals of closure have given way to more overt jokes: ""Millions moviegoers missing/ Just brown and serve,"" he writes in one of the 111 30-line poems in this collection. Each poem has five lines that repeat, so to do the math, there are 2775 lines of poetry on the order of ""All smiles,"" ""Daybreak,"" ""Don't wait up"" and ""Out to lunch,"" any of which could serve as Ed Ruscha slogans, or as Bruce Nauman ad libs. In Greenwald's new form, such lines are like a flavorless but triple-digit-proof liquor, an acquired taste to be sure. `Meditative' is the rubric under development for this kind of work, rooted in minimalist and language poetries. As Greenwald might say, done there, been that: ""Quack quack/ It's for you/ Stranger central."" (July)
Reviewed on: 01/04/1999
Release date: 01/01/1999
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