Sunday, June 5, 2011

Exile From Main Street

In my reading of Paul Christensen’s the human condition, I did not mention the poem “Leaving Texas.”   If you, like me, have been following Christensen’s critical and artistic exploration of Texas for the past 35 years, you can’t help but read the poem in a state of grief.  While he never went native, at least Christensen sat among us, wise from his years of travel, able to translate ourselves to ourselves, an exasperated and loving ambassador, Sam Houston among the Cherokees.

Goodbye to Texas, and all I ever knew,
under your Old Testament heaven, your
backed earth curled like shards
of pottery, your abandoned
native world.  Crags, eagles, snakes
in a choke of yaupon shoots,
your crack and thunder, your
dry arroyos and burnt desert towns. (“Leaving Texas, 43)

One of Christensen’s many projects in service to poetry was Cedarhouse Press, a publishing enterprise that he ran out of small building beside his house in Bryan.   Among the books he published is Mel Kenne’s Eating the Fruit.  Kenne, like Christensen is a migrant.  Keene, a native of Refugio, Texas, has lived in Istanbul, Turkey, for almost twenty years.  There he has taught at Koc University and at Kadir Has University.  Kenne met Christensen, not in Texas, but in Malaysia.  These are guys who have gotten around.

I barely know Kenne, though our paths have crossed a few times. He taught at Austin Community College for a few years.  But when I was coming out as a poet, he had left Austin.  He was a roommate, I believe, of John Lee, who would become a dear friend during my mid-life changes.  One of Mel’s books, The Book of Ed, is a CD with music composed for the poems.  I was part of the group that rehearsed the material and performed it several times in the “please give some money to project” phase.  When the CD was produced, I was wisely replaced by a real actor.  Shout out to actors Paul Wright and Margaret Hoard, whom I much admire!

One of Kenne’s recent books is Galata’dan, or The View from Galata, published in Istanbul in a bi-lingual editon, by Yapi Kredi Yayinlari publishing house, and translated into Turkish by Ipek Seyalioglu.  Galata is a neighborhood in the European side of Istanbul, which we know from Paul’s (St. Paul, not Paul Christensen) letter to the Galatians. 

On my first reading of The View from Galata, I kept having flashbacks to some European film, or several, really.  There is an archetypal character in them, or so it seems in my memory/imagination, of the older man, a bachelor or widower, slightly unkempt but perhaps also a bit formal and reserved and dignified. He is a judge or an academic, maybe even a retired police chief.   He has seen a lot, this gentleman.  He has travelled far emotionally.  Perhaps there was something idyllic in the past that has been lost; perhaps there was something terrible that is more or less overcome.  But this gentleman has ceased his travels, or assumes he has.  And the heart of his life is looking and watching and thinking.  This man’s travels are no longer travels of breadth and distance; they are travels of depth.  He magnifies, brings the far away closer, makes the small bigger, explores the detail.   Maybe he fingers an emotional scab or two.    

So this is who I kept thinking about as I read these poems.  They are poems about the outside world, but there is someone looking and it matters who this person is who is looking.  In this case, it’s not some innocent, some romantic, someone light, making the world into something he wishes it were, but it’s not.  The person looking is some at home, not at home.  Unheimliche ,sure, but I am not going to go all Freudian on you here.

In this book, in general, Kenne, as pared himself down to a William Carlos Williams simplicity.  Here’s a poem “Galata:  Children Playing in the Street.” 

I love the sounds
of life outside
these bounds.

Joyfully
painfully
constantly
each day

we all cry
Anne! Anne!  (page 60)

Note (“Anne” is Turkish for “mother.”)

One of the things I notice in this book is the stillness of it, the quietude, that still contains rhyme, and the pauses of the breaks between the strophes.  And there are no commas in the second strophe: it’s a list but it’s all happening at once. 

I suppose I like this poem because there is a poem telling us how that poem was written:  “Prelude to the Poem Following this One.”

Walking home today,
I passed four girls
who were playing a game.
Three formed a triangle,
its points connected
by a string they held up
with their waists,
forming a kind of corral. 

The fourth ran right up

What I sense in reading Keene’s poems is that there is a simple dedication to just trying to “get it right.”  We’re humans, we see the world, we feel the world, and isn’t that enough.  What’s with all the worry, and the drama, and the artifice.  Keene is doing really hard work here.  He is dismissing centuries of aesthetic mumbo jumbo, of fancy dancing, of showmanship, of selling his wares as a poet.  You know, we can look at this opening and we can imagine Botticelli’s Primavera, the Three Graces and Venus, playing in the street.  But, really, do we need to do this?  Why not just be in the moment, someone there, but someone watching, not really part of it, but, yes, somehow part of it.


I walked on home,
both arms weighted
with provisions—
cheese, salt, whiskey, water—
and later sat down
and tried to write a poem
that began,

“I love the sounds
of life outside
these bounds . . .” (page 58)

 The things he is carrying?  Just the essentials.  And I love the two pauses here—the first, narratively, when he comes home and then, pause, later sits to write, all this time with the thought in his head of a poem that he will write.  Then the second, structurally, following “began” with a comma, pause, line break, now a joy remembered.  He had carried this joy of living with him, down the street, to his apartment, while he took out the key and unlocked the door, put the food up, changed his clothes, visited the rest room, made a drink. 

There is nothing large here in these poems—no desperate searching, no coy stretching of the truth, no family histories to turn vendettas on—this book is filled with the smallness of living daily in a place without one’s history.  Since Keene has given up his personal history, he has plenty of room for the facts of daily life, and, what is more, he can see the facts of his daily life.  He can watch, not only the city, but himself.

Here is the first stanza of a poem “I, Today.”

All I did today was read and swim.
And feel empty.  Oh, yes, he did
feel strongly irritated once, when,
on his way to the pool, he came up
to a man who was standing in
the middle of the sidewalk, talking
to some workmen, blocking his way.
When the man wouldn’t move
to let him pass, I waited for a moment
and then, firmly but gently, pushed
the man aside. Quickly walking on,
he turned and looked back sharply
to see the man staring at him, his
eyes open wide in surprise.  And I
felt almost good, as if he’d done
something for all of humanity.

This could be a complicated narrative, something out of Kafka, a divided self in a foreign city, thoughts combating in an anxious mind.  But Keene’s sharp observation comes to the essence.  We are foreigners, even to ourselves, but sometimes the observer must act, and sometimes the observed will turn to us “eyes open wide in surprise.”  In this book, Istanbul turns and smiles.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Acquainted with Night

  In Randall Jarrell’s essay “The Other Frost,” he reminds us that Robert Frost, at his best, was not the Farmer-Poet, “full of dry wisdom and free, complacent Yankee enterprise.”  Rather there is another Frost that seemed to have escaped notice of both the common reader of poetry (yes, there seemed to be such a public, once), and the intellectual followers of Eliot and Auden.  This other Frost was dark and uncompromising:  “many of these poems are extraordinarily subtle and strange, poems which express an attitude that, at its most extreme, make pessimism seem a hopeful evasion.”

I read this essay thirty-six years ago, when I was first smitten with Jarrell and his work—starting with Hannah Arendt’s essay about Jarrell in her book Men in Dark Times, recommended to me by my political science professor, Leonard Jonathan Lamm.   As the kids say—shout out to Dr. Lamm.  Many of the poems that Jarrell highlights have been among my favorite poems, especially “Neither Out Far Nor In Deep” and “Acquainted with the Night.” 

Obviously, I have been reminded of this essay and Frost’s poetry lately as I read Paul Christensen’s new volume of poems The Human Condition (Wings Press).  In “Night Town,” Christensen writes his own version of “Acquainted with the Night” and adds a gentle allusion to Edward Hopper while he is at it. 

I am out walking again, hands shoved
into empty pockets, The city
at four a.m. rests like a lion
with ears pinned back.
I give it room, and walk the bright
side of town.  Everyone’s in their
first dreams, picking flowers
in a field, falling in love, buying
a house in the country after
winning the lottery. (page 13)

The first thing I need to say—there are so many things trying to squeeze through the door jams all at once—is that I admire Christensen’s uncompromising clarity.  The language of this poem is free of post-modern clutter. The first strophe of this 28-line poem consists of four simple, declarative sentences, alternating between the actions of the persona and the actions of the city, the people in the city.  At first, this poem appears as if it might be about the man walking late at night and his sad life, and it is, but it becomes more.  It turns midway with the line, “My beautiful life. / I didn’t seem to care for much till now.”

By the end of the poem, we know the poem is really about the town, about us—just as its title tells us it is—and about the uneasy peace in which we all live:  “The night hawks / sleep at last, falling into night / without parachutes or wings.”  Christensen’s repetition of “falling” from the first strophe is telling—dreams of “falling in love” become “falling into night.”  And there is nothing to save us; we are neither soldiers nor angels.

Christensen is sixty eight years old this year, and it is tempting to reduce this book to being the vision of the world through the eyes of a man seeing himself age. 

“I’m the last living member of my family. / I carry its meager history on my back” (page 24)
“shelves bend under a load of names / once borrowed by the dead” (page 30)
“Sometimes the past puts on its clothes / and walks back into my life.”  (page 41)
“the hard look in the mirror, / as if age were finally catching up.” (page 54)
“One’s life is no longer a self-portrait / . . . . Your face vanishes / in the mirror and the world takes over.” (page 76)
“I dine on all my memories / of death; I eat my friends at night,” (page 93)

This is a book that could not be written by a young man.  While the physical landscapes of this book range from College Station to El Paso to Provence to Beirut to Cap d’Antibes and to Iraq, the emotional landscape of this book is a wearied but active acceptance of time and trouble.  As he writes, contemplating the horrors in Eritrea,

. . . . I am always
waiting for a sign from god, a blazing figure
in the sky part fire, part cry of indignation
that would roll for years across the heavens.
We could all quake and sink to our knees
to ask forgiveness, but that day will have to wait. 
(“What I Think about in Summer,” page 74.)

The young are brimming with outrage and praise, and they pour whatever language they have upon our streets, like hydrants, to clear themselves of it.  Christensen’s cup overflows, but I imagine him patiently conserving his “spontaneous emotion,” bottling it, and letting it age for the right moment. 

His poem “A Hero with a Thousand Faces,” is as powerful as Jarrell’s “Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” in forcing us to see the cost of war.

Out of nowhere, fire snaked from a muzzle
cutting his arms in two,
pulling his guts apart until his shirt
was a taut sack of blood.  His buddies
pulled him by his collar out of fire,
left him there, to hunt a ghost
with lead and thunder. (page 88)

The music of Christensen’s poetry in this volume seems to me to be like Chopin or Scriabin, solo piano.  Clean melodic lines, the resonance of vowels and consonants.  Notice the u’s and o’s in this strophe, modulating in the tension between the t’s and k’s, on one hand, and the l’s, on the other hand.  There is such overbearing rage in this passage conveyed with patience and calm.

And just to make sure that we know the real source of the horror, Christensen brings us back home to our living rooms.  He concludes this poem:

Back home, Oprah in interviewing
five successful dieters with their doctor,
a sad man with baggy eyes, a wistful
look at all the ignorance staring back at him.
He promises beauty and sex for
fifty bucks, and hears the phones ring
like sirens singing, while our hero
naps in his soiled chair, knees jerking
spasmodically to his unbearable dreams.  (88-89)

We have a nice light allusion to Odysseus returning home from war to balance the strong irony of the title’s reference to Joseph Campbell's study of heroes in myth.

There’s more to say, but this is enough.  Except to point out that Christensen includes in this book two poems remembering two important poets who resided in Texas for many years, Lorenzo Thomas and Jack Myers.  This book contains several ghosts enlivened by Christensen’s imagination. And that is why this book is not finally a book written by a poet in his later years.  Christensen ends one poem wishing to be “one who / tested the imagination and found / it working after all” (“Revolution at Ten O’clock,” page 18).  It’s this line that I think tells us what this book is really about.  We are all caught in the trap of the human condition.  What saves us is our imagination.  If ours in inaccessible to us, it is the imagination of a poet that saves us, a poet like Paul Christensen, gentle, wise in his pessimism, and unafraid of the dark. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sheering Winds and the Gulf

I’ll admit it right up front:  Mary Margaret Carlisle responded to one of my previous posts, and I assume I will see her soon at the Walt Whitman Birthday Celebration at Lone Star College in Montgomery, hosted by David Parsons, himself a poet who will find himself mentioned again in these pages.  I have a couple of Mary Margaret’s volumes that I picked up previously at the Emily Dickinson Birthday Celebration, so Toss Me to the Waiting Sky (Poetry in the Arts) is the next volume to read.



I find an ekphrastic poem a good place to begin thinking about this book and the poet who wrote it.  Toward the end of the book is the poem “Branch of White Peonies and Pruning Shears” based on Edouard Manet’s painting with that title.  Below is the first strophe.

languidly sprawled
upon a sienna brown table
spreading petals
delicately curled at the edges
a branch of white blossoms
newly shorn
by a barely revealed
pair of pruning sheers (50)

Ekphrastic poems can be telling because they are a form in which a poet goes in search of subjects.  They are not poems written from immediate need or angst or joy, nor from current events, personal or political.  I hope someday to comment on Larry Thomas’s poems in The Skin of Light, and James Hoggard’s Triangles of Light (a book on Edward Hopper’s work), and Robert Wynne’s Museum of Parallel Art.  These books will probably tell us a great deal about their writers and what troubles them.

It is the last line of the strophe that opens up, for me, Carlisle’s poetry.  My reading of this poem and of so many poems in this book focuses on the “the barely revealed / pair of pruning sheers.”  We begin with a beautiful, closely observed scene, but there is always a realization of the effects of violence hinted at, barely revealed.  Life, the experience of life, is so wonder-ful, so sweet, but always in danger of being cut off, cut short.  Why select this painting of all the paintings to write about?  It’s the sheers, the homely, the everyday article, the tool in everyone’s garden, that hints at the fact that, somehow, beauty in its natural state is not enough for us.  We humans are compelled to possess, to own, to seek and claim and, often, to destroy. 

In the poem “Gadwall Duck Pond, West Texas,” Carlisle wrestles with a loss—“he won’t be back.”  It’s early winter, the pond is peaceful, like a mirror, with no one peering in.  Her temptation is to act, to control: 

I could chop another cord of logs
to stack beside the door before the flurries fall
or just give up, go home.
It’s just so quiet.  Can I make it through the winter?
Maybe I should close the cabin.  Sell it.  Buy a single condo
in the city.  Get a computer, TV, a telephone.  (page 21)

It just seems to be the net we are caught in as humans who live so much of our lives in noisy, distracting clusters of our cities:

This background of night
is the drone of highway traffic
hum of a neighbor’s air conditioner
songs of summer cicadas.
 . . . . The usual quiet stretch
between light’s out and dawn seems
endlessly interrupted by small noises
and the mockingbird atop
our fireplace chimney
opens and closes the golf umbrella
of sleep so often
silent midnight wakes us all. (“Is that Rain on the Roof?,” page 13)

You can’t get away from this being human—if you do, you wake and you’re back again and it is midnight.   As she writes about her son, in “Shearing”:  “Buddha smiling / before everything else follows.”

I wonder what the Gulf and living in Webster and so near Galveston has to do with this.  This is hurricane country, a place of temporary beauty and temporary terror.  Here you cannot expect anything to be permanent.

the roof tears off and up     the wind roars screaming
until a wordless silence drops
into the darkness
the only light a circle of stars until rain returns
followed by wind and it begins again  (“Rosemary for Remembrance,”  page 20)

There is in these six lines a narrative that I think peeks through many of her poems:  trauma, silence, trauma.  Or perhaps at other times:  peace, trauma, peace.  Time and place are both islands in which we humans live and work.

In “island girl,” Carlisle writes:

you are trapped
by the very thing
that has kept you safe
you cannot flee
beyond the harbor
of the tiny island
or yourself  (page 31)

In this poem, as in many of Carlisle’s poems, there are no capitals, no punctuation , no finality. 
“I become a solitary gull    a ship    a fish / a grain of sand upon the shore,” she writes in “Forming” (page 30).  Again, no punctuation, except for spacing, the blending and the isolation of syntax and white spaces. 

The title to this volume comes from the last line of a poem set on the Llano Estacado, another bare, isolating landscape.  She finds a mallard trapped, like the island girl.  In this case, the mallard is set free, and in this event Carlisle realizes she, too, is trapped, again like the island girl, in her own self: 

tethered tight by leather strands of memories.
I wonder—will I fly off alone
When life’s sharp knife cuts me free?
Or will I wait for someone else
To toss me to the waiting sky? (“Tethered in Llando Estacado,” page 42.)

What courage we have here!   Here is a woman willing to live in life’s temporary states, life’s isolated states.  Just toss me into the sky like a trapped bird set free.  There will be winds, there will be storms.  We are all shorn blossoms, cut from our root stock, petals lying on a brown table, birds set free.  

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Delight in Disorder

I imagine Larry D. Thomas was one of those kids who just loved, beyond any sense of reason, camping out on the blackest of Texas nights with a few of his young buddies.  And he was the kid who pointed out, with over enthusiastic relish, every hoot, growl, hiss, breaking stick, and leaf shuffle.  “Listen,” he says, “the dark forces are coming to get us,” not because he believes that there are dark forces.  He just likes to see us squirm.

His third book, The Woodlanders (Pecan Grove Press, 2002), is chuck full of gleeful immersion into the muck of East Texas.  His East Texas, the Southeast corner of the Texas of the Big Thicket, is not the Central and Northern East Texas of Anne McCrady.  McCrady writes,


Look at this leaf:
An autumn curl between
fallen nuts,
waiting for footsteps,
patient as a martyr
ready to take the weight
of life as it goes on
toward another spring. (McCrady “Perennial,” page 30)

Larry D. Thomas counters with

Its blackened trunk
must be at least
six feet in circumference.
Like a fickle matron
annually adding
yet another trophy
to her already vast
collection of wedding rings,
it towers over the square
of a hamlet
in its death throes. (“The Pine,” page 13)

So much is similar in these two passages, in technique:  the focus on image, a bit of personification, the short, phrasal line, strong line endings.  Yet so much is different, as different as spring and death.  McCrady’s East Texas is inhabited with beaten people, sad people, in a hard world, but they survive.  Thomas’s East Texas is a swamp of anger and destruction.  The opening poem tells us all we need to know:

After weeks of light rain
the floor of the woods
is sodden as a bog, 

a patchwork of oxblood
and mustard tallow leaves
disintegrating from the thread-

like skeletons of their veins
in the black machinations
of rot, scat-scented . . . (“Fox Fire,” page 7)

Nine short lines, so far, and let’s take an inventory:  sodden, bog, patchwork, disintegrating, threads, skeleton, veins, black, rot, and scat.   So much stands out in these words.  First, it’s the unity of the imagery.  This is a world of bits and pieces, of stink, of rot.  It’s a kind of murder scene—but a compromised one.  Second, it’s the unity of soundscape to match the landscape:  the hissing s’s, hard k’s and g’s, thudding d's, short a’s, e’s, and  o’s.  And third, for me, it’s the unflinching attention.  Thomas is not going to look away from this rot; he’s going to poke it, probe it, lift it and inspect the undersides. 

In these poems, Thomas is a poet who sees, because he, I think, must see.  He doesn’t want to glance at something; he is no impressionist, some happy Manet painting in his beautiful perfectly wild pastel gardens, no Renoir in a summer cabin or sunny boat deck.  These poems are closer to some sort of nature equivalent to Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson.   “Don’t flinch,” he says, “I dare you.”

So he takes through a series of these lessons:
Cicadas:  “sawing/ the August evening/ down to darkness
Mildew: “spreading the sedulous// gospel of its jealous god of rot.”
Chiggers: “till he feels them feeding”
Slug:  “the plush/clear carpet/ of its mucus.”

This is a brief book—twenty five poems—the longest poem, perhaps twenty-five lines long.  But it is, almost, unrelenting in its delight in a world untouched by civilization or empathy.  The humans are no kinder than crows or copperheads.   A lumberjack with one remaining finger wields his chainsaw in his dreams; an uncle beds down with his niece; a woman gives birth without doctor’s care; a deformed baby is killed.

I said almost.  Even Thomas, in his most enthusiastic evocations of his dark imagination, cannot find the power to stain the dogwood, whose blossoms are “like stardust/ flung from the wand/ of a fairy.” 

I’ll let the fairy take me to my final observation.  I believe that Thomas has steered clear of the greatest danger of this image world—that of the trap of good and evil.  Yes, we are a little unnerved by the uncle and niece, but Thomas, for all his boyish exuberance for muck and rot, has not constructed a world rooted in an anti- or post-Christian sentiment.  Rather he reaches back, I believe, to the greatest of American poets, Walt Whitman, whom, we remember, loved the smell of his arm pits.  Recently, Bob Dylan recorded a song, “It’s All Good.”  For Thomas, it’s all good.  

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Grace, Disgrace, and Stubborn Keepsakes

I have said, at times in other places, that East Texas has become the ignored and forgotten Texas.  When you ask graphic designers, for instance, to create emblems of Texas, they will turn quickly to cacti, longhorns, oil wells, barbed wire, cowboy hats and other metonyms of West Texas.  Where the pecan or pine tree, where the cotton boll, where the blue bird, where the azalea, the blackberries?   Well, in the poetry of Anne McCrady is one place.
In Along Greathouse Road (Eakin Press, 2004), McCrady commemorates her native culture like a prodigal daughter offering poems like coins in collection plate.  I’ve come home, she says, and I will never leave you again.  Well, there will be the rare occasion when she just has to get out—“led by the urge to dance.”  

But a few nights away will be enough.
Before long, I will come waltzing back,
all smiles and tears—
an empty chair among friends
on the front porch
looking better than ever.  (“Native Daughter,” page 58)

For all her love of East Texas and its people, McCrady does understand that much of it is a closed world.  Over and over there are references to the sky just peeking out behind the trees overgrown.  The first poem in the book begins

Caught between the crests
of ancient loblolly pines
the East Texas sky is a patch
of unexpected news
a snatch of blue dress
of a departing lover.  (Circumstances,” page 3)

What a telling image!  Why not a returning lover?  The thing is throughout these poems there is a quiet grief.  Maybe it is not even grief, maybe it is only sadness.  Just a sense of life not quite being what we had hoped it would be.  Something happened to us as we grew up.  Something that became almost unbearable. McCrady describes such perfect moments of childhood, boys with their grandfathers, kids fishing, teasing bats, eating cookies.  We have seen these moments before with writers such as Willie Morris, such television shows as The Waltons and Andy Griffith Show.   The moments are not a faked nostalgia.  They really happened; they happened to me, also. 

But the lives of adults are hard and lonely.  One woman hangs herself, a man wishes to fly away in the talons of a hawk, another attempts escape from the retirement home.  One man sobs in his fields as he begins once more the planting season.  His family share his longing:

From inside the kitchen,
they would watch him,
their little faces lined up,
chins on the windowsill,
as he sobbed
until, exhausted, he fell
into the rocking rhythm of his shovel:
stab and twist and throw,
stab and twist and throw.  (“Sacrament,” page 4)

We are all disgraced somehow.  We are weak; we do not want to face another year of toil.  We do not want to wake up one more morning with the earth dry and brittle from drought, our faces wrinkled from sun and age.  We do not want one more day of our neighbors wondering why we are not like them, why our cousins desire antiques and not memories. 

But we are recipients of grace.  We do return home.  We do finish our humble lunch and begin our afternoon chores.  We do walk the woods with our sons and pass on what we know of life and death.  We all carry our “stubborn keepsakes from childhood” (“White Girl Come Home,” page 52). 

Many of the titles to McCrady’s poems hint that the abiding religious faith that sees her through and has seen the people in these poems through the late- and mid-twentieth century:  “Sacrament,” “Lament,” “Reverie,” “Pilgrimage,” and “Stained Glass.”  This, to me, is a beautiful faith and a sustaining faith, one without the political agendas of the past two decades.  Which makes me realize that, of course, this book is not really concerned with contemporary life in the way we experience it in the media—an East Texas of racism and poverty and meth labs and church arsons.  This is East Texas as seen by a woman who left to get an education and cultural references unavailable to her at home, but returned to it willingly and lovingly.  McCrady returns to East Texas to report on it.  She is an investigative journalist of the heart, but not a muckraker of people’s lives.

In this way, McCrady is not a cutting edge MFA poet.  Her first desire is communication.  She writes directly in the idiom of her people.  She is bound to her people, not to poetic traditions or her ego as a poet.  The music of her poetry is not the dance of alliteration, but the calm voice of friend on a porch in early evening, over iced-tea, not cocktails.  There is an effortless movement of lines falling, as the sun falls behind the trees.   And it is night.  As the poems reach their endings, I hear McCrady saying her evening prayers.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Natives, Nomads, and Migrants

Hello.  This will be the initial blog post.  I will begin simply by stating what the first goal of this blog will be.  Here I will write a series of reviews of books of poetry by Texas writers.  As time goes on, I may branch out on other topics, but the first goal will be to discuss the poetry of Texas writers.  Who are Texas poets and what makes a poet a Texas poet?  This will always be a difficult question to answer.  We humans are mobile animals.  But I will rely on the concept of natives and the distinction between migrants and nomads to guide me.  One is, of course, a Texas poet if one was born here and stayed here.  One can be a Texas poet if one was born here, grew up here, and then moved away.  One can be a Texas poet if one was born outside the state and moved to Texas and stayed here.  But one is not a Texas poet if one has just passed or is passing through on the way to other locals.