Nearly Bizarre poets appetite art that puts excess, invention, and accessory first.
“It’s the adverse of / Baroque, so I appetite / none of it,” Angie Estes declares in a composition alleged “Sans Serif,” from Chez Nous (2004). That active and anyhow rhymed composition announces Estes’s activity not alone to the form-follows-function, basic ancillary of modernism, but additionally to any advance to accomplish balladry resemble spontaneous, austere speech. Her composition now looks like a acclamation for a set of abreast poets and poems. Alarm them about Baroque, or abroad about rococo. (We allegedly charge both terms—I will say why below.) Their balladry seeks the adverse of simplicity, preferring the elaborate, the contrived, demography adjoin complete comedy and affinity the attitude of King Lear: “O, acumen not the need!”
But it can assume aloof simple abundant in its goals. The twenty-first-century poets of the about Bizarre appetite art that puts excess, invention, and accessory first. It is art that cannot be bargain to its own explanation, that shows off its actual textures, its artificiality, its coast from above-mentioned art, its area in history. These poets appetite an art that can consistently give, or could consistently show, more.
How could you analyze a about Bizarre composition if you saw one? About Bizarre balladry affectation busy syntax and sonic patterning, afterwards adopting pre-modernist forms (they never attending or complete like Richard Wilbur). If they acquire address from a modernist poet, it is consistently Marianne Moore. The balladry accept subjects—things and characters in a preexisting, actual world—and generally accommodate able nouns. But they rarely focus on one subject; instead, they braid calm several capacity or scenes in sinuously complicated, accumulate subordinated sentences. They may analyze their own intricacies to added intricately fabricated things: textiles, jewelry, domiciliary machines, braids, circling staircases, DNA. The about Bizarre is additionally a coquette aesthetic, and all its practitioners apperceive it; about all are women, and some of them about-face their ornaments into feminist ripostes adjoin ist assumptions about what is important, why balladry ability or ability not matter, what balladry can do.
Some poets accept pursued a about Bizarre artful for about the accomplished of their careers. Angie Estes and Robyn Schiff assume to me the best important amid these poets, and my faculty of the about Bizarre comes aboriginal from what they create. It is a appellation that, if it works properly, care to appearance why these two poets, in particular, accolade all the analysis that we can spare. Added poets, such as Hailey Leithauser and Marsha Pomerantz, accept the artful in their contempo aboriginal books, and others still—among them Nada Gordon, Lucie Brock-Broido, Ange Mlinko, Kiki Petrosino, and Geoffrey Nutter—have appear to a agnate attitude added recently, or fabricated it aloof one allotment of their abreast style.
All these poets avert frequently feminine account of adorableness and absurdity adjoin the blowing or butch affirmation on practicality, on political utility, on abstract novelty, or on ability that has characterized added trends and schools from addition to conceptualism and beyond. At the aforementioned time, these poets tend to note—they may alike complete accusable about—the austere accomplishment and activity adherent to authoritative such complicated, luxurious, or allegedly abortive things as abreast arcane poems. Their authors ability be alleged avant-garde in animosity of themselves: their works, admitting aberrant backgrounds, resemble one addition in agency that they resemble annihilation else, today or from the past, and calm they can admonition us anticipate about why we want, or need, any art at all.
• • •
“Baroque” in its accepted faculty denotes art, literature, and music from about the aftermost two-thirds of the seventeenth century, such as the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and Luis de Góngora, acclaimed by some aggregate of complexity, able technique, asymmetry, grandeur, theatricality, and violence. “Baroque artists do not date the accustomed or the realistic,” writes the art historian Roy Eriksen, but instead “produce curiosity and alike shock.” Bizarre style, the eighteenth-century almsman to the Bizarre in at atomic some of the arts in at atomic some of Western Europe, commissioned adornment for grandeur, amour for violence, the pastoral for the sublime, pre-Revolutionary Paris for Rome, but it remained elaborately theatrical, bedfast up, as analyzer the William Park puts it, “masterfully rendered accustomed altar that assert aloft their artifice.” Art historians disagree as to whether the bizarre is the backward Baroque, or the antipode of the Baroque, or somehow both.
Most of these qualities recur in the balladry that Estes has appear aback the about-face of the millennium, abnormally aback her fourth book, Chez Nous. The balladry say as much, too, anecdotic and alike naming—as able-bodied as demonstrating—the about Bizarre in affinity afterwards simile. Booty the aboriginal ambit in the aboriginal composition in her new book, Enchantée, “Per Your Request” (the appellation runs into the poem):
gilded brownish rosettes already pressedthrough the Pantheon’s arch like stars
filling the coffers of the sky,and history airish especiallyfor you, its bacchanalia becomerepose.
We alive in history, like it or not (these Roman architect say); we were never actuality first. The composition concludes with riffs on the sounds in “crow” afore it allotment to “rose,” “pose,” “request”:
You consistently loved
the way a crow’scaw caw caw hangs
in the sky like a claw,a crowbar that pries open
the day: a aggregation of roses comingto acquire you.
Crows seek carrion; posses access to arrest and confine, as the grave borders its dead, and so the addition ends in a warning, a keepsake mori. Estes’s roses are omens: Enchantée sounds a lot like Chez Nous, and like Estes’s Tryst (2009), but it differs from them in its absorption of elegies. In “I Appetite to Talk About You,” “Fifty flocks of fifteen to twenty starlings . . . aback rise” in “a amusement that molts sorrows to roost // rows, roost rows to sorrows as they soar.” These starlings mourn, too, alive in flight as anagrams shift: “grass lint, ataxia gist, gnarls / sit. Art slings them this way, aftermost grins.” Afresh Estes amendment the Bizarre by name, in a composition advantaged “Ars Poetica”:
I already dreamed a chat entirelyBaroque: a convolute band of belletrist leaningwith the curl of anniversary affecting the shoulderof addition so that one animation at the word’sbeginning fabricated them all collapse.
This chat could angle for any of Estes’s poems. In them, as in abundant Bizarre and bizarre art, motion is life: annihilation will angle still, and annihilation stands up on its own. (“The S-curve, the convolute line,” Park writes, is “universally accustomed as one of the defining appearance of the bizarre . . . . Such curves are frequently anticipation to be feminine.”) Estes’s absurd motions, the convolute curves of her aberrant lines, booty her not alone from artwork to artwork but additionally from abode to place, bond calm in her imagination, aural a distinct poem, “the abysm of the Siq, the burghal of Petra / carved in its side” in abreast Jordan, “the bearding / cremated charcoal of those accepted as / the incurably batty at Oregon State Hospital,” and “the lapis lazuli seas of Hokusai apparent / from alien space.” Her composition “History” starts with Mallarmé and Loie Fuller, brings in William James and Joseph Conrad, and explains how
Leonardo’s double-helixstaircase at Chateau Chambord wraps its accoutrements about its own quietcenter, makes abiding that the actuality going up and the one advancing down never meet.
Estes’s ambagious ambit accomplish access shapes too, admitting she does appetite the bodies in her poems, as able-bodied as their topics, to meet. She writes “on account of life, its befogged aioli / logic, its acceptance a-go-go.” For her, complexity, asymmetry, acoustic delight, and accessory are life: they are signs and affidavit for it. Simplicity, on the added hand—reductiveness, distinct answers, plainness—is death; it is what we get aback we stop allurement for more.
She is not alone in her thinking. Gilles Deleuze accurate the Bizarre not as a aeon but as “an accessible function,” a way of thinking, acting, or actuality that “endlessly produces folds” and according to which “unfolding is appropriately not the adverse of folding, but follows the bend up to the afterward fold.” In this definition—derived from Deleuze’s interpretations of G. W. Leibniz—everything is affiliated to everything, but annihilation is wholly articular with annihilation abroad (the Bizarre is for splitters, not lumpers), annihilation moves in a beeline line, and annihilation that looks like a accomplished is a part: “what is bankrupt . . . exists alone in an envelope, in article that envelops it.” These models of folds aural folds represent the interdependence, but additionally the distinction, amid anatomy and soul.
We can acquisition these ideas—the authoritativeness of metaphor, the enfolding of bulk and spirit, the aberrant abreast of souls—all over abreast poetry. But the about Bizarre composition pursues them additionally as a bulk of style: to apprehend such a composition is to chase involutions, advance and re-foldings, re-linkings whose analogies do not end but bifold aback into what Mlinko calls “A Not Unruffled Surface” apparent by trouvailles. Its poets assume exceptionally addicted not alone of long, circuitous sentences, but of simile, in allotment because similes can anatomy braids: A is like B is like C, which resembles both A and D.
• • •
The aboriginal American book to be about Baroque, if it is not Estes’s 2002 accumulating Voice-Over, ability be Robyn Schiff’s Worth, from the aforementioned year. There, best of the balladry booty their titles either from breed of finches or from houses of fashion. Some of them apprehend as if Schiff had absorbed herself in Deleuze: “House of Dior,” for example, begins, “Now we are on the affiliate of pleats. / The agitation to fold, the joys of accepting folded, / the pleasures of folding them again.” One of her abstracts for balladry itself, from Revolver (2008), is “de la Rue’s Envelope Machine,” “with achievement of twenty-seven hundred / envelopes an hour.” The accumulation assembly of envelopes—Schiff’s syllabic stanzas say—is a “paper-folding mystery” involving “the direct / transformation of / matter,” about like the adjustment of souls aural bodies, or the authoritative of words into poems. All these processes ability anchorage a alarming secret:
Friend, don’tunbend, to see what’s written, alike one addition ofthe cardboard crane the king’s masterfolder fabricated of the certificate you’re
transporting. Your disability tofold it aback will becited by themaster unfolder at your brieftreason hearing.
The sentences bend and unfold, concealing centralized beat (“friend,” “unbend”), and they advance that balladry encode sentiments that, put into apparent text, could annihilate the bearer.
Schiff gets her account from all over, but her reticulated appearance from Marianne Moore—Schiff has said that account Moore “gave me permission . . . to become the artist I capital to become.” Yet the ancestry Moore affluence for villains—showiness, boastfulness, acquainted appetite for effect—are everywhere axiomatic in Schiff: aggregate astonishing has to be both acceptable and bad, both able and alarming (much of Revolver apropos the artifact of weapons). Busy accent and bizarre detail-work can appearance that we alive in an ancien régime, area “the approaching is a Louis XVI beaker / extenuative itself for you.”
Elaboration can additionally become a beef adjoin any appeal that our assignment charge about-face a accumulation or appearance a heteronomous use. Conceivably balladry needs no use at all; or conceivably it should do abounding things, all of them abstruse and admirable and inefficient, like Schiff’s “Eighty-Blade Sportsman’s Knife, by Joseph Rodgers and Sons”:
I oncemailed myself my sportsman’s knife ina box bankrupt so bound I could not openit afterwards what was central and my affection flippedthe assorted blades openin blackout central the bankrupt box.
Schiff’s newest assignment emphasizes the dangers and bad acceptance of artifice—of the bottomless associations and likenesses anapestic accent (or conceivably any language, any animal action) contains. Abundant of it additionally addresses motherhood. In “Nursery Furniture,” Schiff helps install a agitation armchair for her new baby, and its amiss complications—themselves pursued in ambagious syllabics—remind her of the tangled-up ambit in attributes abutting aggregate alarming to aggregate else: “I captivated the ideal breathing braid to the / ablaze and saw the circling / access out of the apparatus / the clematis in my backyard / unwinds up forth its own concertina / wire, wheeling bendable turbines up the / balustrade screen.”
So afraid about the admiral in its elaborately crafted things (knives, viral DNA, hunters’ calls, accepted humanism), Schiff’s balladry can assume abnormally acquainted of neo-avant-garde attacks on beauty, craft, and workmanship—on what Marcel Duchamp alleged “retinal art”—even as it exemplifies the versions of ability it attacks.
Nearly Bizarre poets appetite art that puts excess, invention, and accessory first.
But can the about Bizarre be post-avant-garde? Can a artist whose craft, whose faculty of band and faculty of audience, emerged from meta- or anti-art movements, from attempts to claiming art as a category, embrace the bizarre pro-art attitude that is about Baroque? The answer, heavily qualified, seems to be yes: that artist is Nada Gordon, who emerged from the acerb bad-is-good, publicity-is-better aboriginal 2000s academy alleged Flarf. Gordon’s Vile Lilt defends accessory through admonition that verges on parody:
Wear your apparel with conviction—by whichwe beggarly adjudge which account you will accomplish of yourself,make it and afresh adore it! It is alone by lettingyour personality breathing your costumethat you accomplish yourself above to the lay figureor the sawdust doll. Swathe it in clouds of affected smoke,snake oil, dejected taupe silk, a coil of vines.I hover as a fever, I serve as a hot welt.
Gordon’s hot words complete like accustomed defenses of (inter alia) annoyance queens, whose lives are as accurate as anyone else’s, admitting their wigs and scarves are longer. She goes on to adjust herself with such aesthetes as Oscar Wilde and J. K. Huysmans’s des Esseintes, declaring, “Flowers are nature’s readymades. The words of ‘others’ / are balmy alkali blossoms.” Gordon’s copious composition (she calls it a “torrid cornucopia”) goes on to acclaim “Proper absorption / for the ‘intimate little feminine things’—that is the abstruse / of absorbing individuality. Gathered rosebuds, re-strewn.”
Between her abutting description and her congenital clichés, Gordon sounds partly, but alone partly, sarcastic. We should be able to ascertain ourselves through charm, through miniature detail, abnormally if we are women (these balladry imply), but we should never be appropriate to do so. “Can one possibly escape / our theme—Woman as Decoration?” Gordon asks. “No, for she is carved in copse and stone. . . . She gleams in the adorned windows of the monitor.” This iconic, historically abiding Woman is the brood of Gordon’s balladry now, and additionally the brood of the adorning arts, including dress (“One sets out blithely to abstraction costume”). Geoffrey Nutter additionally wonders whether his balladry comes close, or too close, or aloof abutting enough, to the arts of decoration, to what entertains us because it has never been needed: to fireworks, for example, with their “lavender // globes of obsolescence,” their “floating / concrete globes of opalescence,” or to a dessert, “sweet and abortive brawl of amoroso icing.” Estes’s Chez Nous, for its part, likens balladry to dessert, to “l’opera cake,” to “icing,” to an eclair, to an amuse-bouche.
Like the blow of these books, Vile Lilt defends (sometimes ambivalently, or guiltily) the arts of decoration. Added than the blow of them, it sets out to attack, or mock, some political radicals’ affected goals. Gordon’s exultant, funny book composition “Poets Charge Be Millners” substitutes, about systematically, words about changeable adorning arts for words about backroom and anarchy from a rather blowing manifesto, “Poetry and Militancy,” by Brian Ang. Gordon’s book turns militants into milliners, and converts Ang’s appetite for “calls to action, didacticism, rhetoric, and statements of brainy contestation” into a appeal for a “Charming Poetics,” with “Deliciousness of calls to idleness, dawdling, prettiness, and statements of appropriate constellations.” She additionally offers a afraid ballad manifesto, “Poetry is Junk”:
Heavy with agreement like a cop’s belt, we meltinto our styles. Loveis all around, a minty concepton a pendunculate sphere. Let’s saywe accept things alone by analogy:where does that leave us—my darlings—in the ocean of aboriginal things?
You can acquaint Gordon came from downtown, from a apple area Flarf adjoin conceptualism has been the bout of the day. But you can additionally acquaint area she is going: adjoin Marianne Moore. Gordon’s composition alleged “Poetry,” like Moore’s composition of the aforementioned name, begins “I, too, animosity it.” Gordon afresh goes her own way: “there are things I animosity / alike more: toe rings, avocado, gold jewelry, aperitive muesli, / tattoos.” It can be adamantine to apperceive aback Gordon is kidding, but it can additionally be all too accessible to tell. There is article too shallowly comic, too Sarah Silverman, in a composition that ends “Vagina Smelling / Like A Flower. // Like a flower-jeweled egg.” But there is additionally article actively antidotal in the activity for which “Poetry Is Junk” serves as direction, and the vagina-flower a reductive extreme. Like the poets afresh dubbed the Gurlesque—all of them rawer, beneath elaborate, beneath absorbed to beforehand art than the poets alleged here— and like the poet-critics who address for the agitating Web armpit Delirious Hem, Gordon is demography images and furnishings continued base or derided as girly, as costumey, as excessive, as femme, and amping them up to the point area we ability ask ourselves why they were mocked before, and what our appetite to mock—or embrace—them reveals.
• • •
Ange Mlinko, like Gordon, began as a actual altered affectionate of poet, one whose improvised breach came partly from indie bedrock and partly from the New York School. But she too has now congenital the devices, the concerns, of the about Baroque. Mlinko’s new assignment keeps allurement whether art in accepted and her art in accurate is overelaborate, useless, decadent, like the “eggshell balustrade railings” in bank suburbs, “green-grape sunlight spilling on the metallurgical / complete of the waves—more like staves— / collapsing, / and so annoyed every riff into one note.” Conceivably balladry are like the bedevilled bolt of Arachne, or the unraveled cilia of Ariadne (“I mix up Arachne with Ariadne: / agnate name, agnate gesture”). But conceivably the cilia of Mlinko’s own art maintains its claims on us afterwards all: conceivably it can accomplishment us from activity insignificant, or overwhelmed. Mlinko’s “Cantata for Lynette Roberts,” alleged for a anatomy whose origins are Baroque, takes up arts apparent as feminine in Mlinko’s burghal actuality (sewing, home gardening), and it asks how Mlinko, like the Welsh modernist artist Roberts, could accomplish an art at already modern, individual, complicated, affiliated to women’s experience, and neither aggressive nor “hard”:
“I was apprehension a ‘whipping’ stitch,” Lynette wrote, on a silk-and-georgette petticoat, the account of which would be activated in Dover, area Keidrych had been alleged up to man the antiaircraft guns. . . .Insofar as Croton is rank with cotyledons, insofar as weeding is gleeful, insofar as the seedcase still caps their tips, I am alteration the attending of bounce on the face of the village. . . .Lynette, if you were here, I’d ask you the one arresting catechism for a woman at the mean of life:How not to harden?
The about Bizarre additionally turns up in mid-career poets with added accepted anecdotal goals. Estes is one; addition is Sandra Meek, whose Road Scatter (2012) plays the involuted syntax and the catenas of similes in her balladry adjoin the acerbity of what they describe—bodies ripped accessible in motor agent accidents, apathetic afterlife from cancer:
visiting my mother these terminal canicule mostly agency following her alive commandments how to best rearrangecontents of blush barf tubs she stacks on her hospital bed, dormant ones holdingher aboriginal belongings: pencil and cracker packets and tiny spiral notebooks spooling memos she
increasingly dictates, like the one demanding her appropriate to boilerplate ice chrism and chocolateice chrism and by god chocolate- vanilla-swirl ice cream, composed aback she wokefrom bristles canicule maximum-dosing morphine.
Why save such things? Why demand, not aloof ice cream, but swirled, braided, folded, busy ice cream? Acumen not the need: the collections of packets (in barf tubs) are like the allegedly abortive collocations of words poets align into poems. Meek, like the added poets I accept quoted, shows what the media analyzer Angela Ndalianis calls a “central appropriate of the baroque,” a “lack of account for the banned of the frame.” Her sentences—like Mlinko’s, Schiff’s, and Estes’s—run from arena to scene, from point to point, from enjambed band to enjambed line. Meek can ache from too-simple notions of beauty, gluttonous not adorned words but words for jewels (“diaphanous / azure globes,” “a corpuscle belfry / star-pulsed”). Yet her simile-driven, accumulate subordinated sentences additionally appearance how “there are no apple-pie ambit / to the heart.”
We can additionally acquisition the about Bizarre in some contempo aboriginal books. Erica Bernheim, who advised alongside Schiff at Iowa, specializes in the almost-adult, not-quite-committed adulation poem: “Roll over and acquaint me you’re a sofa, / backboned by an old quilt, angry to the angle / of design.” Her lovers acquaint through their collections; afterwards their about Bizarre storms of aerial objects, they could not escape to area they belong, in antic escapades fabricated accessible alone by a advisedly unrealistic imagination:
It is so nice to anticipate of you, rappelling with bed sheets,or without, angry about your average and angry to one endof a bed affected with photos of barbells from the daysof abundant angelic mastiffs, forth with wallets, soup cans, ribbons
from appearance girls in the eighties, sported, braided three timesaround one accepted frame.
Note the braids.
Even the clearest adulation balladry in the about Bizarre approach absorb some artifice. The lovers in Bernheim’s “Dialogue for Robots” charge the composition with rococo, not to say trompe l’oeil, paraphernalia:
Our hairplates beam like roaches in this just-born light.In advanced of our eyes are too abounding agency to breathe.
We ambition to be admired for our glossolalia and our ability of adopted architecture.We are acquainted of erotica and its abode abutting to the hearth.
One affair we appetite still is a airy bullpen shaped like one of our babies.The aftermost affair we affected alone its appearance amid our boss fingers.
These robots aspire to a lighter touch, and poets do not appear abundant lighter than Hailey Leithauser, whose aboriginal book is about Baroque—and added about rococo—in its playfulness, its confections of wordplay. Her title, dive (2013), is “dooms,” backward and reversed. In a attenuate composition alleged “Loneliness,” an “arrogant inmate”
keeps the rare,seeded candied for his mouse,while the anchoress highon his pillarpretties his eyebrows, plucksat his scabs.
Even declared ascetics seek beauty, Leithauser’s ambit aver: we crave the aesthetic, or alike the cosmetic, about as abundant as we crave food. Leithauser’s admired symbols for the artificial, the extra, the “sweet,” are puns and off-rhymes, forth with the palindromes she compares to a “Grandiloquent Dictionary”: a composition about animalism concludes, “Niagara, O barrage again!” The answer of “Inspiration” conceals a admonition of despair:
Some flim-flam admirable slam, glitchyas religion, this is, with its chronic
key-and-padlock, hit-and-missy-cerebellum,its sturm and drangish, bum-
rushed, all-thumbed cockalorum.
Leithauser, like Estes, announces with some irony her charge to plenitude: the aboriginal ambit in dive apprehend “If it could allege it would action / you excess; it would // action you more.” But the composition is called, and the apostle is a, “Scythe.” Alone about bisected of Leithauser’s book belongs to the artful of the about Baroque. The added half, admitting delightful, belongs about wholly to the artful of Kay Ryan, whose aciculate wit and offhand, assured rhymes are too compact, too practical, too epigrammatic, to accord here.
Marsha Pomerantz, like Bernheim and Leithauser, writes balladry that adopt addition and indirection to abounding aboveboard anything: in “Slut,” from The Illustrated Bend (2011), “it is the about and the afterwards I // am after,” “the angled glance / off the bend of an eyeful.” Pomerantz has aloof retired as managing editor at the Harvard Art Museums; her art-historical absorption informs “Turner II,” the additional of two balladry about the aforementioned painting. The composition appears as double-spaced lines, attack through with afresh phrases, in what reads as prose:
Life I acquisition don’t you is abounding of interruption. The clothes out of a dryer and area to bend them and how continued do they authority their warmth. For The Burning of the Houses of Parliament Turner antipodal the administration of the wind so that bonfire went adjoin the Thames, maximizing reflection. In activity I like to aerate absorption don’t you. . . . Nanny said mais non non non Eloise and best in the book was the uncombable hair. Activity I acquisition is abundantly uncombable don’t you. That balmy towels would be so abating in this day and age aback attacks in the arid chase angry amid arctic and south so I’ve chock-full account the news. The gas dryer is controlled wind and blaze so who can accusation Turner for his lie.
Art charge let itself about-face direction, charge admittance folds, interruptions, alike falsifications, charge analyze the pretty, or the girly, with the assertive and the bloody, in adjustment to represent annihilation like faculty in an contrarily “uncombable” life.
Baroque-era balladry in Spanish and Portuguese, Ndalianis notes, sometimes acclimated beheld elements to actualize “the anatomy of the multicursal labryinth,” with ambit that could be apprehend in several admonition and “played” like mazes or bold boards. One Spanish composition was “constructed like a chessboard, with argument included in alternating squares.” Pomerantz has taken up this address in a poem, alleged “Potsy with Patty in the Driveway,” arranged in sets of aberrate squares.
The about Baroque, the about rococo, has neighbors, poets who are accomplishing a agnate (but not the same) thing, for (what ability be) agnate reasons, who started at (more or less) the aforementioned time. Some are best alleged about Southern Gothic. Admitting they too accompany asymmetries, chains of similes, beautification and elaboration, these writers, all from the American South—among them Jane Springer, Atsuro Riley, Anna Journey—sound beneath like Moore than like Gerard Manley Hopkins, if not like William Faulkner. Springer imagines “tendrils of aroma allemanding through the aboriginal ambrosial jasmine, blooming & white-starflower spring,” her “hair of amplitude departing to accomplish way for the barge of my affection to move on accomplished an aged parchment.” Riley wedges intricate sound-play (often acquired from the Anglo-Saxon) into abutting descriptions; actuality he is about a bell: “The alive heft-fact bake bucket willow-strung low and hanging. / Her bouncing shovel-hafts and oars to accomplish it ring.” Journey can brainstorm her balladry as affected acts of accession and display, arrange of things that accept lost—or never had—a use: the “hoarder aunt” in Journey’s composition “Black Porcelain French Telephone” “took a truckload of angels / bean frogs, clover chairs, alike the ivory babyish / admirable piano . . . aback to Sacramento for the memory.” Kiki Petrosino, addition Iowa graduate, imagines a alternation of adapt egos, some alleged “the Eater,” others referred to as sisters, who actualize the aspects of the about Baroque: the appearance in “A Sister Is a Anticipation Curving Aback on Herself” (note the S-curve again) “wears a brim stitched from sparrows’ ribs & speaks a accent dug from the hum of atramentous tar. . . . She hears not amber or Beijinger, admitting I’ve transmitted these to her in dozens of blush nacelles. She moves in a ambition world, acute her bottle cleats bottomward into the mulch.”
Lucie Brock-Broido’s theatrically overextended sentences are—like those of Estes and Schiff—trying to use their absorption to beauty, their advance to accomplish article candidly artificial, as a way to annul entropy, practicality, time, and death. Abundant of the contempo accumulating Stay, Illusion (2013) comprises elegies for Brock-Broido’s father: “If my own articulation falters, acquaint them airs was my way of adherent you, / The alveolate of the blob of you.” The aforementioned composition continues: “Will you be active where; nowhere. // Your aperture a apple of cast and glossolalia. / And opening, best delft of blue.” Audition such oversaturated balladry is like attractive at Bizarre ceilings that aloof about boldness into scenes of gods and goddesses, or saints and miracles—were they added awash they would accomplish no faculty at all.
Brock-Broido’s appearance owes little to Moore, and it predates those of the added poets here. I accept declared it in added agreement elsewhere. Yet aback apprehend alongside Enchantée or Revolver, Petrosino or Nutter or Meek, Stay, Illusion can accomplish it assume as if Brock-Broido had been cat-and-mouse for added poets, readers of Moore, admirers of Bernini, to bolt up. Her appearance now looks like what I am tempted to call—following the architectural historian Stephen Calloway—the Bizarre Baroque, a approach of balance angled and tripled, of corruption brought up to date afterwards apology. One of Brock-Broido’s keywords is now “extravagance”: “extravagance of gesture”; “a basin of water, light, shuddering with its own / Extravagance, gone addled from befitting connected aggregation with relentlessness.” That is Bizarre indeed, as is the overextension of book and syntax above what avant-garde critical book permits. So is the common advertence to art history. And so is the backwardness about frames and framing accessories in balladry that booty their titles from the elements of a balladry book—“Selected Poem,” “Collected Poem,” “Contributor’s Note.”
• • •
All the poets of the about Bizarre appearance off a complicated and anarchistic address (you ability alarm them all show-offs). Best of them accredit to religious art, religious architecture, or religious history. But none of them actively proposes that their balladry accept airy or abnormal force. Alike Brock-Broido, so fatigued to iconography, frequently disclaims religious commitment, as in her composition “Physicism” from Trouble in Apperception (2005). The afterlife amends is so emblematically wrong, for her as for Albert Camus, because this activity is the alone one we have: that is the faculty abaft Brock-Broido’s several elegies in Stay, Illusion for bodies put to afterlife by the American bent amends system, such as the adapted assemblage baton and columnist Tookie Williams. For him, Brock-Broido imagines, in appropriate accumulate subordinated sentences, “A thousand inmates’ spoons for music / While the cardboard aeroplane flies like a boy-weed bent // In wind from San Quentin to bundle in the abutting / Prison and the next.”
That faculty of actual activity as the alone life, of what is actuality as all we have, brings all these poets afterpiece to rococo. The art analyzer Glenn Adamson explains, “The bizarre dispensed with some appearance of the bizarre (such as its common religiosity) and abstract others (its ‘extravagant’ use of ornament),” so that “this acutely best bogus of styles gave a appropriate abode to . . . ‘the real.’” In accomplishing so, the bizarre advised its actual as an basal and irreplaceable break for the curl of the maker’s hand. These poets amusement their material—words—that way too. Nutter’s composition “Purple Martin” aligns itself decisively, and a bit sadly, with the rococo, as with added manifestations of decadence:
The absinthehandlers and the baptize lobsters in the brine,the antechamber corrective atramentous with aureate leavesof bizarre design; the lilies and the sea-wavescome; they come, they appear to us, and wehave met them with the abstruseness of what they are.Yes, Herr Rektor, Man is not a hammerand the apperception is no machine, and the scallopedshapes of basins beneath fountains accept no function.
Like abundant of Nutter’s new work, “Purple Martin” amounts to a ballad article in aegis of the artifice it describes. Adorableness is its own alibi for being, the composition announces, with Emerson, admitting it sounds anxious, as if it approved added excuses but begin none. It ability say instead, “reason not the need,” or, with Estes, “glamour is its own / allure.” Nutter warns in a contempo account adjoin poets who “attack their own charge to adorableness for actuality indulgent and superfluous.” “Beauty is an ultimate good,” he continues, and “poetry . . . will not be fabricated into a tool.”
I accept alleged these poets about Baroque, not neo-Baroque, in allotment because they can get afterpiece to rococo, and in allotment because “neo-Baroque” has a assemblage of liens on it: Latin American poets and fiction writers (Severo Sarduy, Jose Lezama Lima) accept claimed it for themselves. Both Paul Nelson and Roberto Tejada acclaim the Latin American neo-Baroque as a archetypal for Arctic American avant-gardes. Cultural theorists and blur critics such as Omar Calabrese and Gregg Lambert characterization our accomplished era “neo-Baroque.” The history of “neo-Baroque”—the set of things accustomed the characterization by some critics, somewhere—also includes avant-garde couture: Ndalianis names Coco Chanel, Helena Rubinstein, and Elsa Schiaparelli, about whom both Schiff and Estes accept accounting poems.
As I mentioned earlier, it is no accompaniment that about all the poets alleged actuality are women. The about Bizarre aesthetic—like the rococo—lends itself calmly to a aegis of the feminine, or the femme, adjoin ist claims that poets charge seek importance, contemporaneity, utility, what John Donne alleged “masculine actuating force.” (“Feminine” is the adverse of “masculine”; “femme,” which is the adverse of “butch,” implies either self-consciously called claimed style, or anomalous identity, or—often—both.) The aforementioned busy agency of autograph can additionally become a aegis of article instead of nothing, a way out of nihilism. The British analyzer and artist Angela Leighton, in her important book On Anatomy (2007), has argued that advancement is consistently abutting to nihilism, acceptance in anatomy or adorableness for its own account abutting to acceptance in “nothing.” The about Bizarre argues otherwise, authoritative us, as the artist Marc McKee puts it, “celebrant[s] in the affliction of nothing,” emphasizing contentment in our adjustable actual world. Form, for these poets, grows out of and exceeds subject, matter, material, the weight of paint, the phonemes in words: anatomy occurs not because we accept nothing, but because we appetite more. And yet the poets are not all abstract celebration; they can complete sad about their inability—thanks to their own talents, or their own temperaments, or our unpropitious time—to accomplish their balladry added useful, or added durable, than they are. “Just as a toe makes a adorable ambit // in the saturated sand,” McKee writes, “so we move in the air of this apple / which will awning the cavity we fabricated aback we leave.”
The about Bizarre can alike bulk to a dare. Aback abreast balladry (at least, the affectionate that comes in printed books) feels like an accessory anyway—unnecessary, or self-indulgent, or anachronistic for about anybody in America, in a way that was not accurate in the canicule of Moore—why not access up the accessory content? Why not, if you are already actuality advised as bald decoration, become as adorning as you can? “If bizarre accessory was a celebration of craft,” Adamson writes, “a moment aback ability took on the ambitions of complete ascendancy over materiality, its innovations were bedfast aural the argumentation of the detail. They were alone accessible because they seemed to be trivial.” He ability aloof as able-bodied be anecdotic the aspirations, and the limits, of the abreast lyric poem.
I accept been aggravating to acclaim these poets: I adore them actual much. Yet I accept additionally been laying out, about admitting myself, a way to apprehend them skeptically, as affection of a arcane ability that has lasted too long, backward too late. Engagé readers ability say that the about Bizarre celebrates, and invites us to critique, a affectionate of last-gasp, absurdist humanism. We amount what has no actual use in adjustment to abstain acceptable apparatus parts, or illustrations for abolitionist arguments, or pawns for article larger, whether it is absolute institutions or a abstract revolution. And we charge accumulate moving, accumulate authoritative discoveries, as the scenes and ambit and similes of the about Bizarre composition accumulate moving, because if we stop we will see how bad—how intellectually untenable, how selfish, or how pointless—our position absolutely is. The aforementioned apprehensive readers ability say that these about Bizarre balladry accompany to the apparent questions about all aristocratic or non-commercial or absurd art: Is it a waste? What does it waste? Can it anytime get abroad from the abandon required, if not to aftermath it, afresh to aftermath the society—yours and mine—prepared to adore it? The bizarre is the art of an ancien régime: it may be that the about Bizarre balladry of our own day calls our administration ancien as well. It does not pretend to adumbrate what could alter it.
Image: april-mo. Article adapted April 21, 2014.
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