Friday, March 27, 2009

Reader's Diary #471- Eric Miller: The Day In Moss


I'll preface this review by saying I was in a rotten mood when I read the book. I was on a nine hour flight back from England and my family was unlucky enough to be among the few passengers without working t.v. sets. Oh yes, what a fine sense of entitlement I have-- but come on, nine hours crammed into an economy seat? If you want, you can discredit my review since I don't have the good common sense to pretend my mood doesn't factor in. I'm so unprofessional.

I usually avoid the En Route Magazine that Air Canada stuffs into the pockets of each seat because I find it to be too pretentious and elitist, obviously aimed at those people in the La-Z Boy recliners being spoon-fed certified organic caviar behind the curtain near the front of the aircraft. But, at only two pages into Miller's The Day In The Moss, I came across these lines:
[...]Nevertheless, the wind in the
willow sings Te Deum laudamus.

Into the liquid shadow of the river willow, Heraclitus slips,
as into a processional shoe[...]
and I considered picking up the En Route after all.

Not quite that desperate, I trudged on...

"the wind, absconds,/ eloping with abysmal azure"

Can I say that I love poetry but I hate words? Eloping with abysmal azure? What the hell is that?

The Day in Moss is full of the usual Greek crap, pseudo-poetic words like "guano" when "shit" would do just fine, and hippie-ish nature worship that uses silly questions to pose as philosophy.

In the first verse of "Diving" he almost had me,

Tilted you stood so long you accrued
the look of a landmark, a conviction held
at once to make and break the horizon.
Pondering your leap as though intent
had to mean more than any event,
like a cairn you balanced your life
or a crouched trunk, temporizing, with an air of eternity,
over whether to topple or not,
surrender antiquity to dissolution.

Okay so that last line's iffy, but I can live with it...

The thought of cold water delayed
your plunge, postponed your changed
as strongly as hands that might restrain you,
a presentiment of shock as hard as stone
yet as penetrable as the light-hearted clouds, all
convertible, with risk, with patience, to pleasure
after the shock of aqueous apotheosis passes.

Gee, which words in that last line do you think I take issue with? Such a shame. Here I was, finally being drawn in, then suddenly I'm hoping the lake is filled with piranhas. Alas, a few stanzas later and still none have shown up.

If I could salvage any poem from the book it would be "Niagara." Like "Diving" it has more of a narrative bent and this seems to keep the thesaurus abuse to a bare minimum. It begins

A diarist relates that, one summer afternoon, in 1793, cruelty
assuming its usual form, human, strolling
along the shore of the Niagara River, loosed
from a dock the canoe in which a Mohawk
slept. It appeared to be an instance of straightforward, mocking
murder and the one that undid the knot never
was detected.

One decent poem out of 75 pages? Good thing I had my memories of an awesome vacation to help with the remainder of the flight. If you're interested, I'll be sharing some of those, along with photos, sometime in the next few days.

7 comments:

Wanda said...

Oh dear, thank goodness for awesome vacation memories...
Sounds to me like you could use a good dose of Alden Nowlan, to shake this one off.

Welcome home, John.

Remi said...

I agree with Wanda. It's time to detox with Nowlan, Al Purdy and Milton Acorn. Toss in a little Bukowski for good measure.

laurasalas said...

Ok, the collection may have stunk, but your review rocked. Thanks for the laugh, and glad you had a terrific vacation!

(I so love accessible poetry rather than posturing crap.)

Kelly Fineman said...

"Can I say that I love poetry but I hate words? Eloping with abysmal azure? What the hell is that?"

AHAHAHA! God, do I love this review. You are made of awesome. (Sorry about the crappy flight, though.)

claire said...

That's funny, lol. I don't think this kind of poetry is for me, either. Btw, welcome back!

Zachariah Wells said...

I think you have some totally legitimate issues with Miller's verse, John; you raise issues I've addressed in reviews of his past work. And while the problems of that past work are still there in TDiM, I think there's an awful lot of really terrific writing in it, too. For what it's worth, my little review of it's here:

http://www.quillandquire.com/reviews/review.cfm?review_id=6242

Zach

John Mutford said...

Wanda: Yes, Nowlan would be a great idea.

Remi: I'll take the Nowlan, Purdy and Bukowski, but you can keep the Acorn. He's a nut.

Laura: I don't know if it's all posturing. Sometimes I felt as if he was just out of touch.

Kelly: Now "made of awesome" is a phrase I understand. Thanks ;)

Claire: Thanks!

Zachariah: I had read your review before beginning mine, actually. While I certainly didn't connect with it, I'm glad you did. I'm also glad, in the interest of balance, you added a link here. I should have done that.