Sublime

 

Wild Nights, New & Selected Poems, Kim Addonizio, (191pp, 12,  Bloodaxe)

 

 

I am taken back to when I was suggesting to students that poetry was spoken before it was written, and very likely before spoken sung. And that after early in my life hearing Welsh poetry rising if not to song, then to a form of chant or call, to a voicing, I came to hear the same, as it seemed, in Birmingham when I heard poets voicing poems in Urdu. This even to the point of sensing that these voices were way, way back related.

 

In the 21st century we may still be hearing strains of this, while also there are new voicings, new poetry voice musics.

 

Kim Addonizio's 'One Night Stands', in this book, can be heard on YouTube; it isn't sung, or is it? 'Lush Life' is spoken in waves by her voice instrument with trumpet backing.

 

Here is Diana Whitney recently on Twitter writing about her:

 

   These poems get inside your head with the insistence of a moving train.
    'Everyone wants to dive headfirst into love./ I want to put my hand to a
   red-hot stove,' croons a heartbroken lover. Addonizio weaves voices
   of anguish, grit and humor, telling stories of troubled women and a
   one-legged man, conjuring musicians like Blind Willie Johnson and Joe
   Filisko, who 'can play a front porch on a rundown shack/ where a man
   is singing his hurt/ like pressing a thumb on a bruise.'

 

This quote is from the San Francisco Chronicle and you can read the poet's own tweets. It all moves so fast, while the book lays fixed on my table as does any other book. Who is reading books of poems now? Reviewers; and now I become more aware how small the print is, so that the voice seems faint, distant.

 

But they are talking, these poems, they arrive as voice.

 

Having said all that, the poems on the page - in the 21st century - look conservative. So did way back Allen Ginsberg's. Her poems don't roll the way his did but they do forward roll, they have that energy. 'Like that' opens,

 

   Love me like a wrong turn on a bad road late at night,

       with no moon and no town anywhere

   and a large hungry animal moving heavily through the

        brush in the ditch.

   Love me with a blindfold over your eyes and the sound

        of rusty water blurting from the faucet in the kitchen

        leaking down through

   the floorboards to hot cement. Do it without asking,

   without wondering or thinking anything,

 

and continues on down and over the page. For the readings on YouTube she is reading from the book, which seems contradictory, and into a mike. The performance looks conservative.

 

As from a good composer, the pacing varies, as does the matter; this opens 'News':

 

   Because no reporters came to my door

   wanting to confirm my opinion

   of the Bush administration,

 

   because not even the Jehovah's Witnesses

   who can usually be counted on

   to arrive each Saturday

 

   bearing informative articles on Satan's wiles

   and the hour of judgement

   can be counted on this afternoon,

 

and, there being no full stops, I am leaving it in mid flow, to bring in the opening three lines of 'You Don't Know What Love Is':

 

   but you know how to raise it in me

   like a dead girl winched up from the river, how to

   wash off the sludge, the stench of the past.

 

I would heartily recommend this book to teachers: Kim Addonizio, while American in biography, is present in life, in language, with a much wider range of form and matter than can be indicated here. If a teacher really wants to take on the whole sublime there is, of course, much more to be found elsewhere, but none better, I think, and for some compare and contrast for discovery and practice, read and consider alongside her, J.H.Prynne, another Bloodaxe author.

 

     David Hart 2015