Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dumplings and Trumpets: Chris Martin

To call a book of poetry beautiful is somewhat problematic, but I like problematic so I'll go ahead: Chris Martin's American Music is an incredibly beautiful beautiful book of poetry. The difficulty in calling something beautiful is that it's such an over-achiever of a word. What words are you supposed to say after? Calling something beautiful means you've been rendered speechless, that (fuck!) there just may not be a word to describe your reactions to American Music. Nevertheless, I am comfortable with being arrested (uh, in the poetry sense) and will carry on.

American Music is a book that drives in and out of art and film, in and out of daily routine, in and out of literature, of city and subway, the people around. If you're new to the city, you should read this book. If you're turning older, if your age isn't giving you leverage or grants you a kind of leverage that make young people call you SIR or MAIM, or if your age is a reminder that someday you will die because you will grow so old that you will die, you should read this book.

Perversion is a prevailing worry throughout the book. Is someone becoming a dirty old man? Dirty being there all the while yet brought further out by age or city life. Worse yet, being a dirty old man means there is no boys-will-be-boys boyhood anymore, that somehow everything must be accounted for. "...not often am I/ Prepared for violence," Martin writes in "Fertility for Dummies", "though I find it/ Natural, in me as in/ The World, and it remains/ Revolting, the brief/ Desire to trample something/ Living, loving certain/ Registers of collapse..." What you see in that there quote is the beauty prior mentioned and also the italics, the way Martin infuses all his poems with a long list of writers and artists.

Something else I'd like to point out is that the poems sort of wind their way down to their closings. Martin doesn't stop much for punctuation outside of a comma and a question mark, and the poems make their way, connecting phrase after phrase, either making long Faulkneresque sentences or doing away with sentences altogether, to make room for thought. It's easy to get used to and it's fun teaching myself how to listen to the phrase, how to make it work as I read, while somehow becoming a better writer and thinker because of it.

Have a listen to "Subcutaneous Concerns." There are two New Yorky references in this poem, the first being Neckface, the tag of a graffiti artist here in town, and the second being the Gowanus Canal, a canal in Brooklyn that five east-west bridges cross over. Chris Martin is going to be reading near there this weekend for Yardmeter.


Dan Magers said...

ooh, you should read his poetry out loud on Saturday. With him standing NEXT to you. Seriously, I'm totally excited to hear Chris read again on Saturday.

Farrah Field said...

Me too, me too. I forgot to mention that he has a chapbook called "The Small Dance" with Scantily Clad Press. So good...

Check it out: