Monday, August 30, 2010

Now out from Otoliths — Larry Sawyer's Unable to Fully California

Unable to Fully California
Larry Sawyer
128 pages
Cover collage by Krista Franklin
Otoliths, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-9807651-3-7
$15.95 + p&h
Also available through Amazon in a week or two
The poetry of Larry Sawyer arrives free of any investment in a “poetics” or worldview and therefore ties its shoes on the run: “The city is a Smith and Wesson covered in noon.” The sublime lies in “covered in noon,” the waking world in the Smith and Wesson. So there’s a spontaneity of composition (anything can happen and does) that reminds us of what René Char was supposed to have been. On first impression, the poems can seem scattershot, like the art works of Niki de Saint Phalle composed by shotgun. Some of the pellets form patterns, some impressions they make are deeper than others, and some even pierce the metal canvas. Because Sawyer’s style is so open, the casual and intense find comfort in each other and the remarkable detail emerges: “What horizon / spreads in the distance / muscles ripening?” Much of this work is therefore fresh and unexpectable, like the final line of his elegy at Char’s gravesite: “Quiet snow, gossip over the hero’s grave.” —Paul Hoover

The split infinitive title that is Unable to Fully California prompts the question: What in 2010 is most real? Larry Sawyer leads us in response to “the exotic trigonometry” that invokes twirled concepts, blended wines, plus deliciously intentional mistakes. In this spree of sight and sound, nouns take up residence while collocating in new roles as verbs alive in trans-plantation. The tenor and vehicle of similes yield a vivid array of bleached blond poems that skid across the page. Their x axis is transmuted from horizon line to stars as yet unnamed from which we readers readily infer we’re not in Kansas anymore. —Sheila E. Murphy

I love the clear style, unforced music. It is not so much a strange poetry as the poetry of a stranger, the way Bishop was a Brazilian in Boston and a Bostonian in Brazil. I fell in love with your “blue fruit” and “inescapable tomorrow,” also what seems like renunciation not of sentimentality but of cliché …I like even the quasi-Romantic dislocations here: “There is a beauty to ice / only a statue understands.” I’m not a statue, so I only partially understand, but that should be more than enough for Larry Sawyer’s uncanny picnic on no grass … seemed as real as the Bronx, and I couldn’t stop thinking: I am so lucky that this poetry is so good. —David Shapiro

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