One of the most valid critiques of Language Poetry and much of Post-Language poetry is that it is about nothing. Or more directly it is about a crazy Marxist theory that has become uninteresting, didactic and authoritarian.
While I do not concur with this critique always- I often find myself wanting more meat and less foam in my poetry and so much of the Avant Garde is foam. It is nice sometimes to see that a poetry has more to it then just irony and theory.
I wrote on this blog that the greatest poets of my generation are women. But this might also be said for the generation right before mine. Poets like Alice Notley and Barbara Guest are certainly as great as their male contemporaries and someone who I think ranks with the most important poets of current times is Harryette Mullen.
I have read poems here and there before but I bought Recyclopedia which is a collection of three books, Trimmings, S*Perm**K*T and Muse and Drudge and brought it with me on a recent retreat to New Mexico. I brought allot of poetry with me- Dante in Italian, St John of the Cross, Julianna Spahr, Jennifer Moxley, Simone Muench and some others but Mullen's book rose to the top like a Gnocchi in boiling water just asking to be read.
"two shapely legs stretch then run. Sheer magic, a box div
ided. One saw a woman cut in half, waving incredible feet"
P 10 Trimmings
lines like this just wait in the woods for you and then jump you leaving you injured and bleeding in the same way that one feels when they have been violated. The lines are lyrical but they are also innovative. There is something there but there is also-- not.
slandered and absurdly slurred
wife divorced has-been
last man on earth hauls ass to the ash can
his penis flightier than his word
come on! Could you emasculate and then challenge in any other way than poetry? The work is so clean and so challenging. Mullen does not wait for you to figure it out-- she draws you in slowly and then puts the ice pick right into your forehead.
I began to bring this book with me to prayers with the monks and after the psalms and the magnificats I read them- aloud in the monastery's chapel and they melded well with David and John' Gospel because they are also truth not facts.