Sunday, August 14, 2011

Henry Gould, Poet

Henry Gould, of Minnesota by way of Providence, RI, is a poet who has created, and established, an oeuvre that deserves consideration. In his determined and energized way, he adds a luminosity to our empyrean. Really. I think heartily that we should give him his due.

Henry numbers among the poets who found the Internet a fruitful field for the examination and expatiation (and expiation?) of the art of poetry. I did as well. The possibility of interacting with other writers, and the ability to present one’s work, has been a godsend for him, and me too. Prior to the Internet, one needed a connection to machinery—the publishers and the academic coven—to broadcast one’s work. The Internet expanded the social network so that you could interact with the writers as well as the writing, even writers way far away. It has meant opportunity.

Henry has been busy.

He has produced a work to contend with, lots of it. And I like that word contend. Henry has created—continues to create—a forcefully conceived and implemented oeuvre. And to keep the spark alive, he has been a critical thorn, poking sharply against the surface assumptions of the poetic masses, you and me.

Henry writes a great deal in regulated metre and rhyme. That represents post-modern kiss of death. And to be honest, it should, most times. Few writers now have trained their ears to the effects. The 19th Century twosome of Dickinson and Whitman provided illustration and demonstration of the limits of metre and rhyme.

Whitman was simply incompetent to write in metre. At best, he galloped on Tennyson’s horse, off which he often fell, id est,lost the metre. His yawp, even with its occasional “poetic” inverted word order, succeeded more directly.

Much more canny, Dickinson bounded on hymnal structure, except that she routinely dropped a foot, or planted the feminine rhyme right in your face, just to keep your nose close to the words. Her subversion opened the post-modern door, or at least, so say I. Anyway, we didn’t need the mnemonic so much.

Henry has developed singular skill in negotiating the difficulties. Once harnessed to the rhyme and metre, the words still must make sense. I think of James Merrill’s ouija board masterwork. The rhythm rollicks but he twists and curtails phrases just to make them fit. That’s cheating! My reading of Henry’s work does not find much by way of such strangulation.

But not to remain on the surface.

The real hallmark of Henry’s work is the intense and focused personal mythology. This aspect is as fully-developed and nutty as Olson’s. I mean nutty in the best possible sense.Think Jungian, if you will. I like Jung but I will stick with nutty. Henry makes connections and concatenations that I would never have stumbled on, and neither would you. His material combines the personal, the critical, the literary, the occult, the mythological, and more, into a bravely strange and compelling breadth of interest. I haven’t read enough to get it all. That’s the job of future generations.

The poets you might hear in his work, and ones he refers to often, include Berryman, Crane, and those Russian poets that I, for one, have yet to give fair due to. Read Henry’s critical work (read his blog!) and see that he is amenable to a wide range of authors, but not of schools.

I suspect that what I write here sounds like the introduction to the first collected edition of Henry’s work. Yes, I am pressing Henry’s work towards you, tho he lives, he is, tho he is toss’d. You deserve it, frankly. Henry has already accomplished something, and it should not be missed. The tubes of the Internet provide an endless stream of stuff, even narrowed down to just Poetry stuff, and Henry’s PR initiative has been lacking, so okay, maybe you have not given Henry’s work proper inspection. You can start now.