Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Norma Cole, Fate News


if or when one of the magical seals
gives way when does the first parade
of theories begin bracing myself
to outside worked up bright bands
beside normal a problem of tapes then
a record of events
overhauling nostalgic to long ago
pushing a flood of tears in its
slightly elliptical orbit
evidently referring to what I must have
ceased to be in order to be who I am
and the iron moon of Jupiter to imagine
the veins of grooves and ridges of ice
the night sidereal Io’s volcanoes
fit into a box, even where the sky
was my own, but every question
painted ultramarine

Playing off most commonly uttered phrase over the past few months is American poet and translator Norma Cole’s latest poetry title, Fate News (Oakland CA: Omnidawn, 2018), a collection constructed as a mélange: occasional poems composed with a variety of styles and purposes, from elegies, asides, memorials and memoir pieces. Writing out short lyrics, sequences, fragments, first-person narratives, poems on visual art, fractals and short scenes, the overall structure of Fate News is reminiscent of another senior poet’s recent work, Vancouver poet George Bowering’s The World, I Guess (Vancouver BC: New Star Books, 2015), both collections constructed in a way that really shows and showcases the range of each writer’s capability, as well as their ongoing curiosities and interests. The poems in Fate News are composed as responses, whether to music, artwork, friends or current events, and manage both a timelessness and an incredible relevance, all pattered and patterned with a lyric capacity that threads her own music throughout. As part of an interview conducted by publisher Rusty Morrison, and included with the press release, Cole responds:

Many of the poems are “occasional” poems, written for particular occasions, such as “you Sing and the Angels Smile,” commissioned for a book of etchings by Alex Katz, You Smile and the Angels Sing, or “Among Things Aubade for David Ireland,” for anew catalogue, David Ireland. There are elegies for people who died. And “topical” pieces, like that funny one. Poems written for excruciating times. I knew at one point that there would be this first section, “Local,” then “Ongoing,” none of which I’d written yet (more about that later), the “Stay Songs for Stanley Whitney,” and “Harmolodics.” Timing and timelessness, chronos, clock time and kairos, the opposite time, the propitious moment for action or decision. Up-to-the-minute writing and earlier writing. In fact all the writing passes outside of a timeframe into the timeless, read anew. “Harmolodics” comes from my lifelong experience with and love of jazz, from my hearing those sounds, pitches rhythms as a youngster in the middle of the night, in darkness, on a radio. I wrote the “Stay Songs” for a catalogue in 2001, and a couple of years ago I was in New York at Stanley’s studio and he told me he’s been making paintings called “Stay Songs.” And now the songs are in this book and one of Stanley’s “Stay Songs” is on the cover.

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