Peter Gizzi's The Outernationale
Over the past few years, the name Peter Gizzi is one of those names of American poets I've repeatedly heard, but not really read until his fourth poetry collection, The Outernationale (Middeltown CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2007), arrived in my mailbox. The author of Some Values of Landscape and Weather (Wesleyan, 2003) and the editor of the enviable (if I can ever find a copy for myself) The House That Jack Built: The Collected Lectures of Jack Spicer (Wesleyan, 1998), Gizzi is part of a generation of American poets that seems to have come into maturity over the past fifteen years.
HUMAN MEMORY IS ORGANIC
We know time is a wave.
You can see it in gneiss, migmatic
or otherwise, everything crumbles.
That's the message frozen in old stone.
I am just a visitor to this world
an interloper really headed deep into glass.
I, moving across a vast expanse of water
though it is not water maybe salt
or consciousness itself
enacted as empathy. Enacted as seeing.
To see with a purpose has its bloom
and falls to seed and returns
to be a story like any other.
To be a story open and vulnerable
a measure of time, a day, this day one might say
an angle of light for instance.
Let us examine green. Let us go together
to see it all unstable and becoming
violent and testing gravity
so natural in its hunger.
The organic existence of gravity.
The organic nature of history.
The natural history of tears.
There is something about his political threads and deceptively straightforward lines that remind me of the poetry of another American poet, Juliana Spahr [see my review of her last book here], or even New York poet Rachel Zucker [see my earlier note on her here]. The poems in this collection form almost a single piece, moving through art and politics and working Gizzi as a creature of the entire world; not inter- but outer-nationale. Gizzi's use of inference and reference end up taking more of what exists outside the poem into the poem as he leaves the appropriate spaces for the reader to enter, through a series of alternate meanings and directions. Writing in a series of fragments, there is almost the sense that any part of any page could fit easily into any other part of the poems in this collection, as in this self-contained fragment of the poem "STUNG," that writes:
To remember correctly
the color of pale grass in March,
its salt hay blonde flourish.
To see it has it was,
faded cloth, mute trumpet,
the seam inside a day
the sun climbs.
Simple the life of the mind
standing outside in the grass
in March. Outside memory.
one cardinal monody
transmuted by a signal red
a draining blue horizon.
To want to go there
and to have been there
and to be there now.
This walking right now
by a river, simple and not so clear
when transcribing this
unstable multiplying narrative spring.
It can't be called anything.
We too are sprung and wound
with evolution, I want to say.
That's it: love. Not spring.
I have felt it also
in quilted drowning snow
under the sheets
in a clanking house.
Clank, I love you.
Clank. Not spring.
Glossy grass wigging
in a brightening sky.
The thrill of hair
standing on my limbs.