Sunday, 23 April 2000

From "Off the Grid: Lyric and Politics in Andrea Brady's Embrace"

by John Wilkinson.

The more art's uselessness has figured as an exalted reduction, the more lyric poetry has been drawn toward prosodic movement as primary, with analysis and argument conducted under the aegis of this last-ditch spirit -- spirit now lodged in the ruts of lineation and the angles of enjambment. For uselessness is merely a status, while spirit is its working afflatus. Above the spiritual mist, the dawn horizon trembles and shines, or as Allen Grossman has put it: "In the outlook of the lyric person the horizon has ceased to be a precinct and become a vortex." Uselessness gives rise to spirit and spirit to the tentative sublime. In the United States this recension can be frankly religious, in the work of serious poets as different as Fanny Howe and John Peck; or the sublime can be reinstated in the material by way of the body and its voice. Did someone say textuality? The MP3 file is the new poetic eucharist.

How radically do such poetic practices differ from a more debased lyric currency, which not without poignancy offers a set of signposts to the poet's untestable and external authenticity? These seemingly opposed practices may be less different than first appears, for the unknowable is their common resort. Gesturing toward the nub of selfhood may look preposterous as long as the reader resists the solicited identification. But however disingenuous its installation of self may be, this ultimate resort of self-expressive writing, like those poetic modes that would oppose it, yearns for transcendence in the communal. How much more admirable, how different the solicitations of the polysemous blaze as it primps for numinous effect?

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