Monday, December 13, 2010

i tulips – Mario Petrucci

I began reading Mario Petrucci’s i tulips impressed with his insightful imagery and unique perspective, but found I was annoyed at his line breaks. Odd thing to get annoyed at? I felt like Emily Dickenson’s editors must have felt as they read her poems thinking, “Great verse, but will you quit it with these dashes?” So as I read 
let us

lip to lips as
though morning

just made us –
parted these

as clay to
make way for

words that are
for us to

time on air
deft as dew on its

leaf […]
I found myself muttering, “Stop it—you’re wasting paper and getting in the way of your own words.” But then I noticed a particular line in that poem:
[…] so let me
speak as an

whose moment
is under a kind god

who looks on in half-
made garden
& come

-ning will change his mind.
 Catch the “Eve”? As soon as I realized the potential that these odd line breaks had, I found I had to read in a different way, always on the lookout for something hidden. Petrucci uses the same technique in other places, too—he describes a mountain
[…] whose sum

-mit opens to cupping
gasp & parts for

blue […]
This kept me pondering the implications of the word “sum”. So whether intentional or not, whether actually there or not, the potential for hidden meanings makes me read Petrucci’s poetry in a different way. I slow down and backtrack a lot, which although it hampers fluency, encourages scrutiny, and in Petrucci’s poetry, scrutiny is more important.

Cleverness alone, of course, is not sufficient for good poetry, but Petrucci also possesses keen insight and skill at conveying images. 
a half hour after

you leave some al-
most thing starts: your
mattress impression stops

holding its breath – begins
to relax & swivel-chair
where you tackled

laces adopts that
strained angle of the clerk
requiring conformation – then

I see through softly shut door
a house of pointers: your
draped towel on its rail

& bone scissors left
half-open there as though
simple addition of water could

jerk them to life: not so strange
then that a house should re-
member you with each

pine surface & glass
ornament its own sextant
keen for your one star to float

these bricks by […]
 I find myself wanting to compare this poem to Jorge Luis Borges in both style and subject. Borges’s free verse and word choice (or at the translation of it) feels similar, but more than that, Borges is interested in his connection to the rest of the world yet is unsure of that connection. Uncertainty is part of what intrigues him. Petrucci’s lines “I am left a tree cored of starlings, and cannot be sure I was not of them,” feels like it could come straight from Borges.

We'll hunt for a third tiger now, but like
The others this one too will be a form
Of what I dream, a structure of words, and not
The flesh and one tiger that beyond all myths
Paces the earth. I know these things quite well,
Yet nonetheless some force keeps driving me
In this vague, unreasonable, and ancient quest,
And I go on pursuing through the hours
Another tiger, the beast not found in verse.
I recommend i tulips for a chilly afternoon that is warm inside, with ample time, no distractions, and a contemplative mood.

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