Monday, January 14, 2008

Review of Broken World

In Lease's article "progressive lit," while looking for possibilities for the lyric "I," he points the the poetry of Amiri Baraka. Baraka, in Lease's view, is a poet whose "I" contains multiple voices, whose "I" reaches toward the societal "we," opening the space for meaningful political poetry.

If Lease's article shows him championing the possibilities of the lyric "I"; through a critical mode, then Broken World shows his ongoing demonstration of everything that is possible for the lyric "I" today.

Lease's poetry ranges from the luminous abstraction of "Cy Twombly" to the breathtaking elegy of "'Broken World' (For James Assatly)" to the rhythmically driving long poem "Free Again," a poem that itself skillfully holds close a wide range of precedents (from Ginsberg's "America" to William's Spring and All to Shaprio's "A Man Holding an Acoustic Panel").

Let me highlight a section from "Free Again":

my handwriting, stories, Paul
Celan, phrases--

   on the back of
a recipt--

   I made
the words--angry

cheap history
keeps smiling--

       "you've been disliked
for three thousand years:
do you ever look in the mirror--"

At a time where experimental poetry is filled with platitudes about how laguage is non-referential, Lease pulls us from that solipsism brings us back to Paul Celan, whose experimentations and deformations of the German language were born out of a need to respond the the societal trauma of the Holocaust.

Only an "I" that can fracture, that can emote, that can hold multiplicities within it will be able to respond to the horrors of the twentieth century and the lived experience of the twenty-first century (lived both as an individual and as a citizen). This poetry is tough. This poetry is tender. This poetry meets the demands of a harsh but beautiful world

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