Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Gil Ott and Impermanence

Scanning and perusing the bookshelf, natch I find books and authors I haven’t read in a while. Such is Gil Ott, and The Yellow Floor (Sun & Moon Press). He was editor of Singing Horse Press, fine enough accomplishment, but I think his poetry is wonderful, too.

I thought he died rather recently, but in fact, he died in 2004. Tempus fugit, and we can hardly keep score. I take it that he filled a vital space in the Philadelphia poetry scene.  I cannot think of a Boston figure who fills or recently filled such a role. Beyond our starchy educational edifices, that is, and who wants to listen to that resistance?

Ott’s poetry is short-lined, curt (in its way), yet lyrical. He seems less agonized in expression than Creeley but tunes to a similar measure. A poet, finally, that we should be talking about.

But there, I see a rub. We, readers, no longer seem capable to keep up with the past. That is, we see so many writers who we must read, who are contemporaries, friends, people in reports. Keeping up with the current stream, we ignore or lose touch with the past. I say this not accusingly but just to note how the structure has changed.

Myself, I get few contemporary poetry books nowadays, surely not like I used to. Not because the work I see does not match my impeccable standards, but that I know my limit. There is just too much. And that does not even consider earlier writers who I have missed in my peregrinations.

One feels almost like railing against those that made the cut, Creeley, Ginsberg, and the rest of that short list. Why do they remain ‘important’ while other corpses lie a-mould’ring’? Because of the same limits that I claim. Still, I think the idea that poetry is news that stays news is a valid pronouncement. Our friends and all their chapbooks: is that really the news? If yes, then we should hold on, study, discuss, and grow with those seeds. If not, recognize that fact.

I see little useful validation concerning contemporary poetry in the teeming oceans of the Internet. I mean beyond that X is awesome, and Y rocks. With all the possible outlets, there would seem to be plenty of critical matter floating in the aether, but I am not seeing it. Instead, the production line continues to produce the latest model. Like it or not. Yet poetry, and art generally, seems only partially made without discussion. In this instant, I recommend (because he is what turned up in my shelf scan), a reading of Gil Ott. End of sermon.

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