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06/08/2015

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Like so many of these posts, this one makes me want to read more--more Allnutt, yes, but most of all more Sally Thomas. What a great book a bunch of this would make!

About the lines that begin, " Is she not also her grandmother’s..." I immediately identify with that verse, because I think, "Am I not also my grandmother's rocking chair, white statues, jam jar, etc., etc., etc.?"

AMDG

My reaction is mixed. I'm very much of the same mind as Sally about the kind of poetry that I like, or at least a kind, and could say somewhat similar things about W.S. Merwin, one of my favorite poets. But on the basis of the samples here I don't think Allnutt will have the same effect on me. Though I do love those sparrows.

Well, it's Sally on Allnutt that I like. Even when I don't necessarily love the work of the author someone is writing about, if the person loves the author it can be fascinating to read what she writes.

AMDG

About the mysterious Polly -- could that "Polly put her onto it" be a play on the "Polly put the kettle on" nursery rhyme?

That's what I thought

"it's Sally on Allnutt that I like"

Yes, in this case I may like the critic more than the poet.

I really like the poem "Elsbeth." "The cost of light is not inconsiderable" -- a pithy and productive statement indeed.
The Marilynne Robinson meditation on mystery is superb.

I figured she might be a bit of a hard sell . . . :) Though it was tough not to be able to reproduce in full the poems of hers I really like, because of copyright restrictions. "Fenlight" isn't anywhere online, that I could find -- and it's beautiful.

I hadn't even thought of "Polly, put the kettle on." Yes!

There's just something about the way these poems appear out of an unknown backstory, in abrupt and striking ways, that floors me.

In Nantucket and the Angel, there's one, "After Elinor's Death," I think, that's obviously a riff on a photograph, but if it's of anyone famous or public or literary, I haven't been able to find it out. It's like one of a series that the speaker happens to light on -- "In this one . . . " it begins. You know immediately that this is a child who's died, and her mother is sitting in despair in her room, which has been emptied of furniture. In saying this, I'm saying far more than is actually on the page -- but reading, you know this. The emptiness is shown by the light from outside that's crossing the floor and is not interrupted by the presence of a chest of drawers.

It's this stark, sad poem -- but everything that makes it stark and sad is off the page. What is on the page manages to draw the scene and suggest the tragedy in this terse, minimal way that's somehow also beautiful.

As someone who tends to go on a lot, I really admire that.

I understand the effect you're describing, and in principle I agree, and would say I would like poems that work that way, but the Rialto poems just didn't have that effect on me. Definitely in the realm of subjective taste here. There just isn't enough in them for me to get hold of, despite bits here and there that I like.

I tend to be unhappy with the whole drift toward obscurity and just plain cryptic-ness of modern poetry. Just this morning I was reading a couple of new poems in The New Criterion and thinking "you haven't earned by your music my patience with your obscurity."

There's no accounting for taste. There's a poem in Fallen Water that I thought was very good, but when I read it to my wife she burst into tears.

"you haven't earned by your music my patience with your obscurity." — that's a nice way of putting something I've often felt about obscure writing (and film-making, for that matter).

Heh. Yes. And I agree that the Rialto poems aren't my favorites, though I do really like "Elsbeth" -- maybe because I know Paula Modersohn-Becker's work and have been to Worpswede.

I wish that more of Nantucket and the Angel were available online -- those poems are far less minimalist, though in many cases the backstory is a matter of guesswork. But even when I don't know what exactly is going on, or why I should care, the language catches at my ear.

I do not know how to feel about someone's bursting into tears over a poem in Fallen Water. Maybe next time Rachel and Isabel write, Paul, I should put in some fun little thing for your wife. We're really not that sad all the time!

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