Then, there's Dean Young. (If you've never heard of him, here's a recent NPR story about him and his recent heart surgery: http://www.npr.org/2011/05/23/136358656/the-heart-of-dean-youngs-pre-transplant-poetry)
Dean Young writes the kind of poems that punch all manner of holes into what I just wrote above. No, I don't always "get" him. But often, I don't care. Often, the joy of reading the words on the page--the way they are placed, the order, the rhythm, the juxtaposition--supersede any need for explanation. The dark humor, the charm, the cerebral wit. Take, for example, the first three stanzas of "My Work Among the Insects"
|The body of the lingerneedle is filled|
with hemolymph unconstricted except
for a single dorsal vessel. A ventral
diaphragm bathes the organs of the head,
undulations drawing the fluid back through
tiny holes called ostia aided by
of a Napoleon within each abdominal segment
pacing his Elba exile, muttering la Russie
la Russie as the snow squeaks beneath
his boots. All through the night
the temperature drops but no one
knows where the lingerneedle goes.
"Aided by a Napoleon within each abdominal segment/pacing his Elba exile, muttering la Russie/La Russie as the snow squeaks beneath/his boots...." Are you kidding me?! That's effing brilliant! Or how about this, a few stanzas later:
Often in July,
one finds them collapsed in the tub, unable
to gain purchase on the porcelain that seems
to attract them mightily. It is best not
to make everything a metaphor of one's own life
but many have pressed themselves against cool
and smooth, in love and doomed.
Aaahhh! "...but many have pressed themselves against cool/and smooth, in love and doomed." I have never read anything so perfect in my life. I want to run outside, shouting, nailing copies of this poem to the doors of my neighbors' homes like some kind of Martin Luther of the MFA crowd.
See? I don't know how to really, smartly talk about it. I don't know exactly what it is that makes me want to do cartwheels over this thing. But I don't care, for some reason. I'm happy just to point to it, drooling like the idiot it makes me, and say "Isn't this phen-effing-omenal?" But maybe the fact that I have no real vocabulary is because the work is so great.
Maybe that's what great art should do--make us stupid with happiness.