Poems to an Imaginary Friend: On Collier Nogues and David Hernandez
|Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series|
|"Halfway Down the Stairs" - Saturday mornings|
|Tom McGrath (1916-1990)|
It is difficult to find the news in a newspaper. Hell, it's difficult to find the newspaper. It is difficult to get the news from poems yet you and I and Dr. Williams know that women and men and children die miserably every day for lack of what is found there. So it's nice when poetry comes to you, or at least to me, at work, with a celebrated poet sitting right there in a teachers staff meeting or walking the arborial showplace that is the UC Irvine campus, or observed cheerfully meeting students for office hours at a table in the terrarium-like commons, with its pleasant din of intellectual labor
|Blue - in a good way|
One such poet is Collier Nogues. Here she is, smiling. It's a lovely, generous smile perhaps because Nogues has a lot to be happy about, and yet unhappy, too. Happy because her collection, On the Other Side, Blue is a remarkable book and because she is so blue, by which we mean so thoughtfully, carefully, whimsically and syntactically immersed in the color and apprehension and purposeful noticing of experience. The work here is whatever the opposite of introspective is, perhaps outrospective? Which is to say that the place of the line in her short, intense poems is a place to linger, to go back to after reading the poem the first time. In poems recalling, summoning her dead mother to considering broken and tender love, it is in the short line arranged nearly as epigram, as caption of scenes, with the killer line:
"Once a plane goes down, the cause is something else, No matter how rough the flight was"
Short, fragmented story-poems with dialog and scene, rendered so economically as to suggest dictionary word usage examples, here about lovers and the vulnerability and embarrassment of love, family genealogy,episodes of memory reconsidered. One of the shortest and most powerful finds Nogues interrupting herself, knowing something so immediate that saying it is impossibly both useless and necessary, just to get through:
"They didn't trust the other country's water..."
And yet Hernandez writes generously, as in the poem "Remember it Wrong," in which he hoaxes us, hoaxes the hoaxer, too, responding to James "A Million Little Pieces" Frey, famous shamed/celebrated teller of tall tales: "Memory is a murky thing, always changing its mind." The message, as it were, is instructive, adding more subjective to subjectivity in a house of mirrors, which fools and taunts here, and in another poem one about the war(s) called, yes, "Victory Song": "Soon as we captured the flag we didn't want it anymore." Ha!
Or in "Head Case," where Hernandez plays a game of free --- or perhaps feral --- association with unlikely circumstances needing, somehow, even more unlikelihood:
"The biologist who carried the severed
And so on, messing around formally with the premise, and messing with, for sure, our heads, and finding a way to confront the biologist, the seal, his own poet's head game.
So who knows what artists and poets can be thinking when they write and paint and otherwise make up their minds about the rest of us. Or where they might be doing it. It is as if, finally, they are writing to the possibility of all of us, as well as the us of us. Thanks for that!
Next month, April, is National Poetry Month.