Contact me through

Monday, April 15, 2013


What an intriguing project by Marthe Reed: her Dusie chapbook, Florula Ludoviciana, that's fortunately small enough to be included in SitWithMoi's "Books on Chairs." 

But, first, a note on the wonderful Dusie project founded and curated by Switzerland-based poet Susana Gardner.   I was fortunate enough to once participate in Dusie's chap project (THE SINGER AND OTHERS: Flamenco Hay(na)ku), and would encourage you to read this HOW2 article on Dusie; here's an excerpt:
On paper or on-line, the most important kind of space Dusie aims for is a space for poetry, the "of many by many for many" that is open to and for experiment. "As a woman and poet," Gardner says, "I had long wished to establish a space where poetry might thrive in a more open and conducive spirit, encouraging writers to take risks." She implies that there is often not enough space available in poetry journals for longer or more playful works, both in terms of physical page and stylistic constraints. While the average paper-based journal typically presents a small selection of poems or a few pages per issue by a given author, it is not unusual to find anything from a few poems to a dozen pages by any of the poets featured in a single issue of Dusie: the space is flexible and variable. Gardner takes on what she personally considers to be compelling work, from handfuls of in-progress or in-play poems, to extended chapbook features.

This is not to suggest that Dusie becomes a sort of catchall for work that has been filtered out of a poet or publisher's idea of publishable or polished work. Rather, it means that Dusie is to function as the arena we so often claim we want our work to exist in; a flexible, playful, risk-ridden space for actual experiment, "versus any ready-made poetic dogma," as Gardner puts it. She recognizes that what gets labeled as experimental is still prone to division and segregation within itself, that the "serial, long poems, hybrid and multi-genre works" she is obsessed with and intrigued by still get left out as the various other when they don't quite fit a given style.

Marthe Reed's Florula Ludoviciana is one of the experimental explorations coming out of Dusie this year. 

 It is also made out of judicious folding and cutting of a single piece of 8" x 11" paper to create sufficient "pages" to offer seven poems (just like moi NOVEL CHATELAINE). 

By coincidence (or synchronicity), I read Florula Ludoviciana shortly before reading another poetry collection, the fabulous 80 BEETLES by Mark Cunningham (there are three sample poems in the link). I couldn't help but notice how both Marthe and Mark offer poems with titles that would seem to set up some theme or narrative frame, but then the text of the poems segue (wonderfully) into something else.  In Mark's case, the often far-reaching segues unfold in the way of great prose poems (a form advantageous for suppleness and flexibility), and these are prose poems.  In comparing Marthe's approach to Mark's, I realized then that Marthe's poems are also about deftness and balance.  Because unlike Mark's poems, Marthe's poems, on one level, seem to want to be plausibly factual -- their constraint, thus, is not the capacity to go robustly wild (as Mark's poems) but to seem, at least initially, believable in an almost matter-of-fact way.

For example, we have the poem entitled Prunus Caroliniana which, according to Wikipedia, is "known as the Carolina Cherry Laurel, with syns. Cherry Laurel, Carolina Cherry, Laurelcherry or Wild Mock Orange, [and] is a flowering tree native to the Southeastern U.S., from North Carolina south to Florida and westward to eastern Texas."  Here is the poem:
Prunus caroliniana

a tree
and one foot

small, white, yellow
taste of almonds
even when it freezes

On the face of it, one can read the text and not see any reason why the words are all "about" this Cherry Laurel.  But if one considers longer the last two lines -- "taste of almonds / even when it freezes" -- the poem's expanse widens (or can widen, depending on the reader) to narratively non-related matters.  Say, the aftertaste, both literal and metaphorical, of some complicated if not negative-in-some-way event.  I mean, have you ever found yourself in a situation where you participated in something that you ended up regretting or that ended up hurting you?  Your reactions to that event can remain or linger long after the matter has ended -- "it freezes," thus remains (instead of, say, evaporating).  And "taste of almonds," for me, evokes poison, which is to say, something negative.

This is another example, a poem titled after Amaranthus greggii.  Again according to Wikipedia, this is an annual flowering plant " native to Texas, Louisiana, and Mexico. The plant can grow up to 1 m (3 ft) in height. It is found in sand dunes and near sea beaches."  Here's the poem:
Amaranthus greggii

the real
differs from this

and small white
It may be that the amaranthus greggii offers parts that are white and small, but the wording of the poem makes it address the larger issues of reality -- the difficulty and complications of trying to fix reality, whether into words or recognition. If you think about it, "whitish," "small" and "small white" can mean entirely different things.  "Whitish" is not the same as "white." "Small" is not the same as "small white."  Yet all the words are applied to the same plant. Doesn't this hearken the same problems we might have with accurately defining matters of identity or authenticity, and then articulating them as such accurately?

What's interesting, too, about "Amaranthus greggii" is that it references a plant named after Josiah Gregg, an explorer and naturalist.  He collected many previously undescribed plants -- how much of what we know of those plants depend on Gregg's ability to identify "the real"?

Great poems often have the ability to inspire a reader to think.  Florula Ludoviciana might seem a modest project -- small in physical scale and short poems numbering only seven.  But its expanse is wide and makes for pleasing engagements.  Thanks, Marthe for writing it!  And Dusie for publishing it!

And now, it's time to "shelve" Marthe's 2 5/8" x 4 1/8" mini-book!  Well, why not on a lovely rocking bench with comfy rush seat, perfect for contemplation!

No comments:

Post a Comment