AND THEN THERE'S ALCHEMY
... and so I'm reading THE GRAND PIANO by reading one poet at a time through his/her contributions in the series' ten volumes. The idea is, if I'm moved to do so after the individual reads, to then compare this type of reading with reading each volume as published in order to determine the significance of "collective autobiography," the terms upon which the project presents itself to the world. The fifth poet I read (after Lyn Hejinian, Ron Silliman, Tom Mandel and Bob Perelman) is Kit Robinson.
By the way, I'm not reading the poets in any particular order. It's the advantage (and I do consider it an advantage here) of not knowing any of THE GRAND PIANO poets, though I've met (and read) with Ron Silliman.
So, Kit Robinson. I respond with AWE. From his first word, I was just bowled over. There is a huge amount of charisma in his prose. Except for his contributions in Volume 8 (which was good but felt flatter than the other nine volumes), I just felt like his prose was as PURRRRR-FECT as prose writing could be. Such effortless elegance. Not a single word felt unnecessary, which is something one usually says about poetry rather than prose. Especially the first few volumes -- the writing was just so smooth (gads: I'm trying to remember that male jazz singer who sings, for me, exactly the way this writing seems to me ... ah well, I'll come back and note it when I remember). Frankly, at the end of Volume 10 I wished the series consisted of a hundred volumes (a thousand!) just so I could keep reading Kit Robinson's contributions.
Indeed, the quality of his prose was such that he could pull off (from Volume 5) something like the following paragraph which, in the hands of less masterful prose writers, would come off as just ridiculous with that ending:
Later, when "Song" was published in "Bob's Talks book, Ted Berrigan told me that Alice Notley had asked him what I was trying to say and Ted told her, "He's just having some fun." Which was both true and undoubtedly false. It's a tossed bag, which is OK with me, as I naturally incline to the incidental. Or as Ahni said once in regard to another context (the war in Bosnia), "Everything pure is weak."In the above paragraph, the parenthetical of "the war in Bosnia" (and despite it being a parenthetical) should have struck a false note. But it doesn't in the context of Kit Robinson's writing. (Reminds me of how Ron Silliman aptly observed that the same words -- "brat guts" etc. (I recalled it as "bratwurst" at first) -- would mean different things if penned by different writers.)
And: his contribution to Volume 1. There's something impressive he pulled off in there that I can't yet fully describe. Was it related to the lack of names of various key protagonists (which then ironically-but-in-a-delicious-way contrasted with the various "I"s due to the "I remember..." aspects of his contribution to Volume 2)?
Anyway, I'd not paid much attention to Kit Robinson before though I notice I have one of this books in my library. After THE GRAND PIANO, I'm a fan.
Still, I will say that I was left a tad flat by some of the poems he cited within his prose contributions. I felt like -- in light of his magnificent prose -- those poems are mostly (though not all) exercises ... for the poems he has yet to write. I apologize in advance for being presumptuous now, but I feel like he should embrace lyricism as a gift as it seems to me he possesses that gift? Anyway, how old is this dude? I hope he's got decades left to live. I'd like to read his future poems.
This brief post doesn't do any justice to Kit Robinson's contributions to THE GRAND PIANO (I keep yammering about writing form and haven't even addressed his substantive content!). Well, none of my prior posts do justice really to the contributions of the other poets I've so far read. But it's the first time I feel bad about my fragmentary blog postings on this series. I apologize -- but hope I do succeed in conveying what I hope will be your takeaway from reading this post: a huge enthusiasm for Kit Robinson's contribution for a fineness that I generally associate with deeply-held intelligence held internally instead of released to the "noisy" and noisily-social universe where its dilution would prevent alchemy.
Labels: Relished W(h)ines