Sunday, January 10, 2016

David James Miller, CANT

calper limns as peal—
syncretic diction

a raise /
collect as landscape figures

contingent grammar as—

sacral fragments / slough

tracing / as cant arcs

After a couple of chapbooks to his credit, American poet, editor and publisher David James Miller’s first trade poetry collection is CANT (Black Radish Books, 2015). CANT is a curious collection of five sequences—“THE COLLECTS,” “AS SEQUENCE,” “WITHOUT WHICH,” “OR DISCOURSE” and “THE COLLECTS”—as well as a brief opening poem (above), each constructed out of extremely precise gestures, with each poem circling around a particular word, phrase or idea. What appeals, in part, is the subtlety in which he constructs these gestures; deceptively slight, yet forming a remarkably connected sequence of fragments. Miller circles through repeated gestures, pauses, breaks and halts to form a set of accumulations, each constructed into a set of whole poems out of their own suggestions, inferences and incompletions. There is something of Miller’s small gestures akin to the work of poets such as Toronto’s Mark Truscott, or even Ottawa’s Cameron Anstee, who both combine gesture and smallnesses in extremely dense poems, and yet, the stretched-out smallnesses of Miller’s poems extend across the entire collection, making this less a collection of gestures than a single, extended poem. Think of the pointillist elements of Seurat. These poems are about breath, and thought, and gesture, and require both a slowness and a rapt attention. The poem/section “AS SEQUENCE” opens with a single line on the page that reads: “sequence as : as was want—” and writes, further on:

—was want

& dust—


of /

what recursion


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