Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Noah Eli Gordon's A Fiddle Pulled from the Throat of a Sparrow

Yes, I've said
or thought to say

Yes, I've said
nothing & then not

nothing, nothing
of our dusty thoughts

their harmonious

of a girl

into an

of a boy
covered in mud

under an ash tree

For years I've been seeing individual poems there and here by American poet Noah Eli Gordon, and finally had a chance to go through his most recent poetry collection A Fiddle Pulled from the Throat of a Sparrow (Kalamazoo MI: Western Michigan University, 2007). His fourth trade collection, it follows his previous works The Frequencies (Tougher Disguises, 2003), The Area of Sound Called the Subtone (Ahsahta Press, 2004) and Inbox (BlazeVOX, 2006), as well as a number of other chapbooks. This fall even sees the publication of two other titles, including the poetry collection Novel Pictorial Noise (selected by John Ashbery for the 2006 National Poetry Series) and, with Joshua Marie Wilkinson [see my note on him here], the forthcoming collection Figures for a Darkroom Voice (Tarpaulin Sky Press). On his list of other titles, one of the titles that does really jump out is the ongoing "whalebone essays" he's been working with Eric Baus [see my review of his first book here], Nick Moudry and Travis Nichols that has resulted, so far, in the chapbook Untitled (Whalebone) Essays; what is this project all about?

Built in eight sections, the poems in A Fiddle Pulled from the Throat of a Sparrow project a mature work, and leaps ahead of what I've seen in The Frequencies and Inbox, but continuing the poems from his collection The Area of Sound Called the Subtone. One of the highlights of this collection is the four poem "Four Allusive Fields" that each begin from a repeated first line, and seem to leap out of the quote from Roland Barthes, "Who is Cy Twombly? What is it he does? / And what are we to call what he does?" Listen here to the second poem of the small quartet:

Cy listens absently to absent Homer
explaining himself away. Boring as a canvas
to a waterfall, as a splotch of red to equations
lifting a helicopter, injured by a display of attentiveness
can you believe this humming anonymous light
The light is anonymity. Break it against
an electron, smear it with a magpie's
greenish-black tail feather, cast it on a sheet
of orange vellum pasted inside a brown leather book
A cricket's ankle is not fragile to the cricket
Dab it there. It has nothing to do with the sun
The sun is a system free from authority
& you sweet shy Achilles have already worn
through your shoes & the pedestal beneath

Gordon uses repetition again in a further section, with the long sections that make up "A New Hymn to the Old Night," using the line "afar lies the world" as first in a few places, but more as a beginning point, a bouncing off point into further places, deliberately seeming to use the line as a way to extend himself further away from it than the previous series, and eventually abandoning the line altogether.

Cy listens absently to absent Homer
regards a useless allegory spreading its human shape
across inaudible dirt. Sparse, porous, scattered
any moment's fringe epicenter is irredeemably stalling
& you move away like a building or a horse
The useless allegory adheres to logic, the first principle
of representation: if you walk to the bridge & refuse the view
clouds of blue steam still billow from a grate
below a green dumpster. Ask grime on a limbless statue
surrounded by tulips in May & hope for an end to winter
who doesn't age absently ignoring unhinged flesh
Nakedness is a carriage & I'm in love with impossibility
for its dynamic body. A shard of twilight smashed
on the cyclotron. If you can see the fibers don’t say so

This is one of the few collections of poetry I've seen in a while now that really comprehends not only a sense of mature movement and a tightness you could even bounce a quarter off, but a sense of play that too often gets removed. This is an exquisite collection by a fine writer with the sense enough to have a good time; I would recommend this highly.

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