Sina Queyras: Short Take on I Don’t Feel So Good

And also of the energy between paragraphs. The energy of white space.

Here is Liz Bachinsky quoting Richard Ford on the torque that happens in a story when the author finds a way to make the implausible, plausible. I have been wondering about this torque. What makes a poem inhabitable? What makes the space plausible? What does this have to do with free verse, formal poetry, coiffed syllables, earnest content, the roll of the die? This is a serious question. So many contemporary poets are using fragment, for example, to try and achieve this torque. Fragment works when it comes out of something substantial and is arranged in such a way that the flames lick one fragment from another, hungry, the reader wants to slide her tongue into and down the poem. Fragment is not a way to make two disparate parts come together. You can’t place two of anything together and make it sing.

Unless you have something fabulous that you are cutting up. Which brings me to Bachinsky’s I Don’t Feel So Good. Here we get a book of poems built on the roll of the dice. Not sure how she did it exactly, but the lines come from journals and are thrown together like so many sticks toward a bonfire, and they catch and burn with fabulous energy. Why? Why these apparently haphazard constructions? Because a good poet needs to know where to find the content. And the content needs to be combustive, filled with opinion and wonder and unknowing, not surety, but also not fey conjecture, not only one kind of observation, but many.

I have, in my own work, moved more and more toward the statement. Reading Louise Gluck this spring, I realize she too works in statement, Lisa Robertson in statement, Kazim Ali has a wonderful book filled with statement (Autobiography and Cities, Wesleyan), Sharon Olds is, at least when I like her best, trafficking in statement. I love all of poetry’s moves, the most formal, the most concrete, the most clean, pristine, messy and uncontainable, but at the moment, nothing pleases me quite so much as the statement.

And this book is Bachinsky at her best, I think. All the scaffolding out of the way. The goods. The straight goods. The gorgeous, unfiltered responses that we all love her for. I didn’t love every page. I didn’t think every statement zinged, but I have had it less than 24 hours and been compelled to tell you about it. I loved my interaction with this book, and I will carry it around for a time with some pleasure.

Two out of two toddlers say yes.

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