Monday, November 27, 2006

Reader's Diary #194- Peter Van Toorn (editor): Sounds New (FINISHED)

For this, my last posting about Sounds New, I'm going to avoid talking of transcendence. I'm afraid I've been selling the book short by focusing only on that aspect. Instead I'm going to focus on one poet in particular, Emanuel Lowi.

Lowi is represented here with three poems: "stone point", "At The Great Whale River Social Club" and "What I keep in my kitchen." The first of these poems really caught my eye. Written to look like steps, "stone point" is written as from an Inuk perspective, and has mystic elements. Yet despite having such elements, it feels more like a traditional poem than many of the others in the collection. Like traditional poetry (and other art forms for that matter), I think that "stone point" looks through reality to find the truth. Despite talking about "spirit-songs" and "amniotic dawn", Lowi reminds us that these "truths" are derived from nature and first-hand experiences. "Stiff as antlers", "animal stomach" and "cliffsides and slopes" are just a few of the hard, nature-based images. Compared to many of the others poets in the collection, who seemed to look away from reality to find the truth, I found "stone point" oddly traditional and refreshing at the same time.

"At the Great Whale River Social Club" was similar. Somewhat of a short story, it felt like an Al Purdy poem. Quickly I was becoming a fan of Lowi.

Then came "What I keep in my kitchen". My first reaction was that it was some sort of joke. With the previous couple of poems, it was apparent that Lowi had talent. I initially suspected that he had tried to see if it would get published, or maybe that it was a way to prove the cluelessness and sycophantic nature of his supporters. Basically, the poem does what the title suggests, it gives an inventory of items in his kitchen. I've read a similar poems in the past; one that itemized the contents of a purse. Poems such as these seem like jokes at best, arrogant self-centeredness at worst. However... I read and reread "What I keep in my kitchen." I liked the first two so much, I just had to get at the bottom of it. Certain facts started to become apparent; it was told through an apparent vegetarian's voice. Mostly, he listed herbs, a few fruits and vegetables, lentils, tofu and a couple condiments. Still, this didn't solve the mystery as to why he decided to let the reader into his kitchen (or think a reader would be interested). Then I noticed the one and only poetic element. The only non-nouns in the entire poem, come right at the end as an eggplant is described as "one gentle eggplant". It's amazing how a little adjective can haunt me so much. Why weren't the peanuts, for instance, gentle? Why wasn't the saffron say, seductive? The mystery has gotten to me. Perhaps even more than William Carlos Williams' "The Red Wheelbarrow." And for that I give credit to Lowi. Even if it was a gag poem, it's caused me to think.

1 comment:

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Hmmm, it would be interesting to discover his real intent with that kitchen poem. Particularly as his other two seemed so meaningful. Odd that he would make one so flippant then.