Saturday, March 4, 2017

Loosening Up

Passing my desk the other day Aloysius noticed New York poet Sarah Kay's No Matter The Wreckage lying thereon. It seems a friend had been recommending her work to him and he was struck by the coincidence. As I explained to him, my having the collection is actually a sort of random accident. When I was off-loading the Kinokuniya book vouchers I got at last year's Literature Seminar at the bookshop's main branch I happened to come across a few copies of the collection, in a rather handsome, nicely illustrated paperback and, as is my usual practice, I thought I'd pay a few dues to the world of poetry by buying the book on spec.
I'm glad I did. It's not my usual thing, I suppose, owing much to the world of Poetry Slams and Ted Talks - as I gathered from the extensive credits and acknowledgements. I'm guessing the writer is a bit of a celebrity in that world, which isn't really my world. In fact, I'm guessing that's where Aloysius's friend had made the acquaintance of the writer. But she's a very talented poet with a distinctive voice.
The distinctive feature of this school of writing (if that's what it is - I'm using the term in the sloppiest way possible) is the strong sense of the voice as a public one in performance, even when the material is seemingly of the most private kind. The rhythms of the verse are entirely colloquial, loose to the point of outright clumsiness on occasion, especially when a longer line is adopted. For someone like myself, essentially educated in the tradition of poetry as essentially finely hewn, it's a bit of an ask (as they say) to take these new formless forms on board. But, hey, even an old dinosaur can learn a new dance. (These days I can even find some small joy in mixed metaphors.)

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