Tuesday, July 20, 2010

MiPOesias Magazine!

Didi Menendez has a multi-channel publishing network that not only presents some of the best poets and artists working today, but she adds value by aggressively marketing them through cutting edge technology, as well as in traditional print forms. For Didi, it's about publishing as an art form and giving herself totally to that art and her artists. And even though she's all about relationships, they never get in the way of her demanding excellence in the work. Check out this issue of MiPOesias Magazine to see what I mean, as well as the link to MiPOesias, to see her other publications!

Friday, July 16, 2010

What Goes On: Stephen Dunn

I'm a sucker for significance. Maybe it's my blue-collar upbringing with protestant work-ethic, or maybe my search for God, which led me into the professional ministry, and then later out of it. Perhaps I'm a narcissist, wanting the universe to be permanently changed in some huge, measurable way because I passed here. Whatever the reason, for a long time Stephen Dunn's poems, beginning with Angels, have brought comfort to my longing for meaning, without compromising my appetite for a subversion of expectations. His latest collection, What Goes On does not disappoint on either count.

After a healthy portion of poems from collections going back to Loosestrife (1996), including meaty morsels from Different Hours (which won the Pulitzer in 2000), and side orders from four additional volumes (Riffs & Reciprocities, Local Visitations, The Insistence Of Beauty and Everything Else In The World, the book serves up twenty New Poems, most of which use ontological issues as main ingredients--some classical in nature, and others decidedly postmodern in flavor--all with gorgeous language, memorable presentation, big-boned ideas, and a stick-to-your-ribs substance that is practically unheard of in this age of extra-light, quickly-prepared, smoke and mirror-flavored, when-it's-gone-it's-gone, fast-food, ingest-on-demand poetry.

Here is a taste-test to determine if you'd like to order the entree.

"When I say your hair/is the color of a moonless night/in which I've often been lost," writes Dunn in the first lines of "Language: A Love Poem," "I mean approximately that dark." Signification for Dunn is not an a priori one-to-one correspondence between language and objective reality; while it does have to do with representation of meaning, that meaning is only the beginning of a process of discovery of connection, as seen in these later lines:

The rose, to me, signifies the rose,
and the guitar signifies
a musical instrument
called the guitar. At other times
language is a slaughterhouse,
a hammering down, its subjects hanging
from hooks, on the verge
of being delicious. When I say
these things to you it's to watch
how certain words play
themselves out on your face,
as if no one with imagination
can ever escape being a witness.

Dunn is a master at calling his readers into his world, where objects and ideas are recognized as having an emotional history, but not at the cost of exhausting the relationship between them and with us. It is only by looking at their past meaning that a future with them exists:

The whale for example, no matter
its whiteness, is just a mammal
posing as a big fish, except
of course if someone is driven
to pursue it. That changes everything.

So does Dunn--his poems transform every commonplace word into a love-affair with life, if not with every incarnation of it.