Monday, July 20, 2015

The Word KINGDOM in the Word Kingdom - Noah Eli Gordon (Brooklyn Arts Press)

Today's book of poetry:
The Word KINGDOM in the Word Kingdom.  Noah Eli Gordon.  Brooklyn Arts Press.  Brooklyn, New York.  2015.

This collections starts with the poem "An Example" in which Noah Eli Gordon invokes the name of the poet James Schulyer and several of his lines of poetry as the center piece of a conversation between Gordon and several other poets.  My ears pricked up Joe Orton style.

One of my favourite poets and the most knowledgeable person I know when it comes to poetry, Stuart Ross, visits my lucky home regularly, almost frequently, often stays overnight, and when he does he rummages through my thousands of poetry titles.  I keep them in alphabetical order, naturally. Almost every single time Stuart visits he alights onto a copy of James Schulyer's book The Morning Of The Poem and then takes it to his room for a fix.

When Stuart Ross talks poetry, as you all know, I listen.  When I saw Schulyer celebrated/honoured in the first poem of Gordon's book The Word KINGDOM in the Word Kingdom -- I knew I had to pay special attention.  Good thing.

Historical Criticism And
The Image Of The Heart

Its beating was always allegorical. One hears it
in a scene where someone crouches
behind something, or in the subbasement
of one's own response to what the day, stumbling in
at an odd hour, strews across the bathroom floor.
Isn't fashion last year's scandal declawed?
The books we'd loved best told us on every page
to wake, whether to hunger, cannon fire,
or the warmth of another's body. As for painting,
its greatest achievements, of which you know
I'm no authority, are replicated in
wrinkled sheets. By you, I mean the both of us.
A new focal point brings the promise
of finally seeing for the first time what we'd been
looking at all along: sunsets. Then photographs
of sunsets. Then better photographs of sunsets.
Then perfect digital copies. Then computerized
reenactments. Then, simply, ones and zeros.


It's not just that the poems in Noah Eli Gordon's The Word KINGDOM in the Word Kingdom are precise -- they are, they are laser cut and seemingly predestined, all full of logic and wonder.

At first you think Gordon may be toying with the reader like a cat playing with mice.  But that's not it at all. Gordon is directing, leading, cajoling the reader through a splendid maze of language and opening dazzling doors of light along the way.

An Experiment In Artifice
And Abject-Oriented

between a prayer for the telescope

and a prayer for the microscope

pixels flare into the image of an atom

in an anthill an airplane entering

the troposphere an idea orbiting

that of human cognition in the authoritative

shape of earth seen from elsewhere

antiquating the twentieth century's

representational doubt or doubting

representations of ownership

in our condensed book of vigilance

where the absence of a crown

shows hierarchy to have no color

I prefer the muddy ghost of one

sustained cello note over one

hundred thousand science experiments

I prefer two electrified balloons

pushing away from each other

like localized points of reference

perhaps one can love the academic sentence

for its ethical contortions the footnote

for its fishhooks pulling up islands

from an ocean floor perhaps a barge

passing below a bridge exemplifies

a green horizon free from the expectation

of green blackened with carbon completely

submerged the egg holds around it

a fine film of air it is silver the silver

of barges and silver of bridges

a perfect pear-shaped lampshade

bringing to the room an understanding

of artifice the silver shape of Colorado

in spring its glossy parody of an ideal

landscape shattered by the airplane window

crossed out like the X wedged into

a representation of the upper atmosphere

the sun's light is white this the light

of example a world within a red lampshade

whose idea of orange is a tiny dandelion

giving to a field its greenness anyone

can bend and scatter blue and violet rays

but who puts together a life by praising

mathematical air around an elephant

half of the sky excuses itself

from such a question sixty-five million

years ago an asteroid smashed into

the earth what remains is loneliness

for the nihilistic imperative withdrawn

as Copernicus withered as an oak leaf

clinging like an aura of classical inevitability

around the little effort it takes to imagine

a scorpion you don't admire an icon you

just click on it the airplane and the

atmosphere were never one spiraling

through a pre-Mayan zero's impossible

boundary the barge and the bridge were

never one a seed disintegrates in soil

complete potentiality comes to the elephant

and the egg one validates the other's

annulment reaching toward the lamp

someone's decided the world's too full

of illumination both captain and pilot

survive scrutiny as the barge destroys

the view from the bridge and the

nomenclature of clouds gives the day

another creation myth to ignore the guts

of a piano would make a good example

but of what I'm unsure so we continue

to engineer our architectural music

taking cues from Chaucer like clues

from the hourglass shape of a Chinese

alchemist's furnace too much symbolism

annihilates the sublimated form therefore

no one mentions swans anymore would you

rather have a goddess of terror

to whom goats are sacrificed or

the implications of Eve signifying human

sensitivity entrenched in the post-

European psyche for another millennium

I'm through thinking in images says

the bodily eye to its narrative

dismemberment while a decapitated head

rolls out of the cliche and I've built

another victim of fully embodied rhetoric

and in this lies the difference between

picture and proposition between

thinking afresh as if nothing had happened

and taking a tidal wave apart a salty

phoneme sinks in sand it is not

novel pictorial noise but the limits

of draftsmanship standing for the limits

of earthly existence removed from

the videocassette multi-petaled rose-like

I give you permission to see beneath

the apparent image of the flower

in this model two prongs of a fork

are pushed into a cork J'Lyn moves

from Joshua Paul and Kristin expand

without tipping or toppling over the fern

marks an absolute conclusion simplistic

and perishable impermanence yes

the gymnast considers another balancing

experiment and our boat demonstrates

a failure to parse the greenest of sentences

the fork however is easily returned

to the drawer the fern to the forest

airplane to the air and the elephant

to the twisted nucleotides that give it order

after the piano was repaired its music

seems dated derivative as attention

tossed to the ruptured balloon ruining

the experiment's proof of repulsion

but proving sideways listening a kind

of detonation a miniature electric cell

in which notes are to noise as bees

are to a shaft of wheat compressed

into the best tasting bread things don't

correspond they coalesce a lion crushes

a dandelion a crown crushes abstract

autonomy Dante damns his enemies

in every new translation as true images

are collapsing again into the earth

we enter the Clouds of Magellan

only to drift like heterogeneous ideas

yoked together by violets this is

the terrible loneliness of an electron's

orbit botany and pornography fused

into the most aerodynamic of asteroids

goodbye Hegelian aliens the rational alone

is a real hinge pulpy and puffy children

swing in summertime alive as animation

so much for the playground hypothesis

of a disaster movies ripping open

an already cauterized cultural wound

you like novels and I like nudity

underneath all utilitarian and decorative states

an instrument of epiphany sits unstrung

as a book of etiquette from the age

of cause and effect American acoustics

thrive in their theatrical qualities

while the sky drained of any significance

drops like a curtain over our embrace

or reading into the empirical now

the piano implicates us in its generous

and possessive melody the cricket emerges

an imago parents roam from room

to room demolishing themselves

like Socratic students both egg

and airplane crack leaving no other trace

than the transitory and arbitrary volume

of a little air tender wreckage

grass nailed objectively to the ground


Gordon isn't as committed to an obvious narrative line as much as Today's book of poetry usually prefers but these are speed-racer poems.  Once you are aboard -- warp speed is introduced and The Word KINGDOM in the Word Kingdom is at full speed.

Gordon whips through ideas with his foot firmly on the floor, the focal point keeps shifting, images fly by the windows, but oh what a ride, oh, what a view.

Against Erasure

Tinkering with trace elements
or punching holes
to pry the copper piping
from your mother's insect voice
either way you'll wake up in static
which is like falling asleep in snow
Call it a tiny treasure
surrounded by a summer horse
& admit that there's a cup of coffee
inside every meaningful thing
you've ever said


Noah Eli Gordon's very tightly knit and intelligent poems operate "under Emerson's assertion that '[e]very word was once a poem.'" according to the editors at the Brooklyn Arts Press.

For us here at TBOP these were challenging poems -- my brain is old and stupid.  But they were very rewarding poems where surprises abound.  Even I can see that Noah Eli Gordon's The Word KINGDOM in the Word Kingdom is sublime.

Noah Eli Gordon 
Author portrait by:  Zachary Schomburg

Noah Eli Gordon is the author of several books, including The Year of the Rooster (Ahsahta Press, 2013), The Source (Futurepoem, 2011), and Novel Pictorial Noise (Harper Perennial, 2007), which was selected by John Ashbery for the National Poetry Series and subsequently chosen for the San Francisco State Poetry Center Book Award. He is an Assistant Professor in the MFA program in Creative Writing at The University of Colorado–Boulder, where he currently directs Subito Press.

“Eileen Myles, Alice Notley, and Clark Coolidge were among the poets I looked up to as a youngster. When I think of poets from my generation who bring that same shock of living magic, Noah Eli Gordon tops the list. I’m always excited for his latest book, each a departure for unknown terrain. This is essential poetry, which is an urgent way of saying highly recommended!”
     - CA Conrad

“I’ve known Noah ever since he was a flower on fire. This book burns.”
     - Dorothea Lasky

“[I]nside this kingdom there is a syntactical logic that radicalizes ontological concerns, a sensation of waking under marvelous pressure, hills of storks and swans and lions, various collusions and collisions mapping the breath-spaces between words.”
     -  Selah Saterstrom

Noah Eli Gordon
Reading his poem "A New Hymn To The Old Night"
From his book A Fiddle Pulled From The Throat Of A Sparrow
Video:  The Continental Review


Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

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