I was reading about how Ford Maddox Ford, as poetry was tilting towards modernism near the turn of last century, proposed that poetry should be written ‘in exactly the same vocabulary as that which one used for one’s prose.’”
A hundred years later, we end up with selections like this from Craig Santos Perez:
i visit her and grandpa more often since the move fromWell, that’s certainly “written in the same vocabulary as prose”. It is prose. One wonders if this is what F.M.F. had in mind. But it's hard to call poetry.
fairfield ca to fremont ca
sometimes i bring them dinner after work
sometimes they cook
i was somewhat afraid
because when i was a kid
grandma once made me
chicken liver and onions i ate it to be polite but
everytime after that she made liver
became forever known as ‘craig’s favorite’
even when they came over to her house on holidays and birthdays
when we all still lived on guam
they would bring a small tupperware of liver
The collection as a whole is a whirlwind of snippets from all sorts of sources having to do with his native home in Guam, and the struggle over culture and identity following the history of colonial oppression. Perez weaves personal memories, historical facts, word definitions and origins, quotations and phrases in his native tongue into pages and pages of poetry, but it never feels like poetry. It feels, instead, like personal memories, historical fact, word definitions and origins, quotations and phrases in his native tongue, diced, tossed, and sprinkled with creative punctuation—a word salad connected by a theme. Instead of poetry, it feels like slapdash collection and regurgitation. I have difficulty appreciating it for the same reason I have difficulty appreciating Jackson Pollock’s paintings: if all you are doing is throwing paint (or words) at the paper and seeing what happens, it just doesn’t feel like you have crafted something with the mindfulness necessary for us to appreciate it.