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In For, the first volume in the New California Poetry series, Snow continues her vast and original poetic project of defining the relationship among art, life, and the acts of perception that define and limit those terms. If there is "subject matter" --an elusive term when one is talking about Snow's writing--it is the play between memory and moment.
Here is work that makes innovative use of autobiographical material, in finely wrought and highly sculpted poetry of great integrity, power, and subtlety. The kinship For has with Eastern thought and poetic forms extends to the fact that, like the poetry of Tu Fu, it has a depth charge of spare style. Among American writers, Snow's antecedents include Elizabeth Bishop and George Oppen.
For synthesizes something classical and ancient--the need to observe cleanly and to represent a thing simply and with force. Snow forges new and remarkable poetry by combining traditions that once seemed incompatible--the materials of life and a purely aesthetic, experimental style.
It ran from me, its tether dangling.
No: it ran from me, I had only the loose tether.
Positions of the Body VI
Wanting not only the stillness of hills
but intercession—as by new grass
on the hills—with the silence
towering over the hills, Moore sculpts a massive
figure in black marble: a woman's
body, reclining, curved; eloquent
as bone, shell,
stones worn beyond contradiction.
by the roadside, hills
lying in middle distance, few houses. Only the green
reaches of vineyard intervening
seemed manageable, that is, human—a matter
of scale; the silence was huge, so that only
the hills (which were huge,
also) could rest.
Cézanne, leaning to his canvas, would have mastered
that view, you thought: the blues and greens
and ochres of proximity and distance, that tenuous
position in the dance, not of the drawing
together of unlike, like bodies, but of the holding
apart of thebody and terrain; you were held
so still, you thought that you might become those hills,
or must have been borne by hills,
or maybe your body
had been a maquette for the hills.
The hills and I would exchange qualities.
(In my need.)
Which frank, which masked?
If I were over there by the boats?
2. If I were over there by the boats?
(displaced ... `withdrawn' ...)
Or drawn to memory by a vague memory
of walking to the front of a crowded room to receive
(a laurel leaf stapled to a postcard) my prize
in the contest of naming a series of natural objects
placed in a box, a closed box: by touch alone,
day after day in camp: `pinecone,' `chestnut,' `burr,'
`?': deep in the blindness of the inside of the box (apart, in a kind of
listening; the glaring, the dusty
world, displaced ... `withdrawn' ...)?
Tethered—by touch—to the level
of form (the fingers, stubbed at form, all attention at the edges)
to recognize—by touch—by a likeness
of form (which is not `to remember'):
where the eyes were looking was for.
Bereshith [in the beginning] ...
God wanted to behold
and turned to fragments ...
(A card I found at the back of a drawer—the leaf
then dry, yet fragrant.)
3. Which frank, which masked?
facing (as facing hills),
The expression of looking at—beautiful, `available'—
gazing upward and I on her ..."
Beatrice in suso, ed io in lei, guardava ...
the woman does more than look down or aside;
she looks away and also changes the shape of her mouth.
The thought of you looking away and fear
rose in me—as shame rises—as into lack.
And trees seemed
hollow, then—all glory, all
attention, drained out—drained
suddenly as though violently
Rabbi Isaac said,
"The light created by the Blessed Holy One in the act of
flared from one end of the world to the other
and was hidden away."
... Rabbi Judah said,
"If it were completely hidden
the world would not exist for even a moment!
Rather it is hidden and sown like a seed
that gives birth to seeds and fruit ...
Since the first day it has never been fully revealed...."
David—having climbed the stairs
to bed, his breathing a little
`pronounced' (recognizably his breath)—David
pulling the fabric of the nightdress down
over the curve of my thigh (he loves)
and stroking the soft flannel.
4. The hills and I would exchange qualities. / (In my need.)
But `assume,' not `exchange': "I would assume /
qualities of the hills.//
Solidity. Glory. Repose (in my need)."
`qualities' — rather,
Temporary reflectors were embedded in the new
asphalt. Flimsy in the day. Metallic petals
recalling rose petals they followed — I wondered where to put them—
which floated to my skin and stuck almost skin-colored, "sterling" reblooming
in hot, wet ...
somehow I am fourteen and panicking. Disorder in the making
and the order of. Florid but actual. Pink-looking. Pink against the actual
skin. Driving, reflectors on the left; envisioning the petals they
succeeded, somewhat larger in a central
panel; my body as I saw it in the water, in the panel
on the right: if one encountered them together. Petals,
loose in a bowl, long-dried, then I threw them in the bath—an
|News Of: Codicils||6|
|Positions of the Body VI||12|
|On His Therapy||22|
|Then Three Reflections||23|
|Helpless, behind Her||28|
|Fermata ("Extended Care")||35|
|By the Pond||39|
|Again this morning||45|
|I Was Reading about Abulafia's "Permutation of Letters"||48|
|At the Beach||53|