Friday, August 19, 2016

Zach Savich, The Orchard Green and Every Color

You don’t need to paint faces in the trees

There are faces already

Today is an open letter

Read it to me

To everything, lemon added

This appetite doesn’t signal deficiency

The final step of transplanting is distress the trunk (“My Summer Hospital”)

Philadelphia poet and editor Zach Savich’s fifth full-length poetry collection is The Orchard Green and Every Color (Oakland CA: Omnidawn, 2016), a collection of stitched-together sentences organized into two distinct and discrete sequences. The opening poem-sequence “My Summer Hospital” is followed by the lengthy “A Different Year,” a section made up of poems with a variety of lengths, all of which are seemingly constructed in the same collage manner. This collection showcases Savich very much as a poet of sentences, akin to Lisa Robertson or Daphne Marlatt, utilizing both the quilt and the weave, as stand-alone passages begin to twist, connect and even thread as the accumulation builds. There is almost a dream quality, certainly a meditative one, to these poems, as the poem “WHICH SIDE OF THE LAKE IS LONGEST” opens with the line “We put the musicians in the prettiest room,” and later, includes “I could raise the clothesline for the long gowns.” It is as though the entire collection is constructed to set a particular tone, and a particular meditative lyric space. As he writes as part of the interview included with the press release:

As far as provocation goes: my faith is in the lyric. In the ability for lyrical tendencies—intent depiction, affective and associative reasoning, trust in song’s stammering forth, interest in uncertainty, in cosmography over cosmology—to offer what Stevens’ calls an “unofficial version,” which provides us with new ways of seeing and speaking, which we need. Basic ideas? But ones worth insisting on. Often, after reading or during visits to universities, one is asked to justify poetry’s existence, if not to apologize for it, by aligning it with aspects of culture that lyricism is better suited to resist—of media cycles, vocational import, simplified meaning, falsely polarized topicality, foregone spectacle, individual celebrity (who would trust a poet with any celebrity who didn’t immediately write poems to complicate or diminish it?), and so forth. Meanwhile, it’s safe to suspect that poetry has been a part of human life for what I’m happy to call forever. I’m glad that poetry offers an occasion to talk about meaningfulness more broadly, but the calls to justify it by culturally conventional terms—or via those who’d see poetry as a way to individual celebrity, foregone spectacle—seem to suggest an alienation from creative and humane intelligences comparable to asking what the vocational value of bread or clean water is, or why do I stay married if I can’t say what the dominant “meaning” of my relationship is, and anyway aren’t I concerned that my marriage’s audience is limited to the people involved in it, rather than being accessible to the broadest commercial group? Can’t we speak in more familiar ways in bed so everyone can get it without needing to even hear it?

Given this faith, I believe that attending to poetry—to close thinking about lineation, say—becomes a way to attend more closely to the world, to the topical, the mediated, and so forth.

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