Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Karen Volkman - Vacancy's Ambassador

American poetry is crazy about the prose poem. Even more than your drippings of Billy Collins or beefsteaks of Albert Goldbarth, the prose poem, big or little, is showing its twisted ass all over the dance floor. As if doing the literary equivalent of that spazz-dance of Elaine's from Seinfeld were a good thing, the prose poem insists upon its significance by becoming the it form in contemporary poetry. If only its convolutions & permutations were of Pootie Tang proportions. Sure, there are some prose poets I might keep from clubbing with my cane but each and every one will get it sooner or later.

Karen Volkman is one of the many poets endeavoring to slip us the mickey of prose poetry in high hopes we might be intoxicated by its lilting dumbness. Everyone who likes her book Spar must be on the same drugs though they all seem to be on different terms about how fast the books moves; slow? fast? Reminds me of those stoners in college with their Keith Jarrett LPs (yeah, you too Mr. Brush, i gots yo numba) who think it's good shit no matter what speed the record spins at. Unlike Jarrett, Volkman is no genius of improvisation or even of practiced hoodwinking. When an entire book of untitled prose sections is a winding road of cliche and prepackaged illumination, you can be sure little to none of it is memorable. Volkman is the "prevalent predator" of good intentions in prose poetry's empty enterprise. At least with Gertrude Stein I get the impression of bohemian silliness, a hint of absinthe tomfoolery. With Russell Edson I get to relive my mushroom days but Volkman's serious attempt at materiality, at humor, at innovation, is, well, I'd rather be shaving with a hot coal.

Volkman even comments in an interview about how prose poetry and her poems sometimes struck her as "impermeable, hideous bricks"; she drags Rosemarie Waldrop in the mix by mentioning how Waldrop calls working with prose poetry's inner disjunctions as "gap-gardening". Oh, for heaven's sake. If by gap one means nothing and by brick we mean a good solid piece of shit, well, then Karen Volkman is "vacancy's ambassador", harbinger of nothingness (I just hope the boy in this story has a luck dragon at his side and the good sense to say "I love you" when the time comes or we're all screwed), her voice "a song that is stranger than wind", a foul foul wind, no Mama, that ain't no sun coming out that ass, it's Karen Volkman and her brick factory.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

chocolate treasures get me titles, wheee...

7:34 PM, April 27, 2005  
Blogger Agent Trochee said...

Update: at the request of some of our loyal readers, I emailed Ms. Volkman in hopes to get a response but she has not responded. Therefore, I encourage someone out there to speak for her.

3:58 PM, May 01, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is just cranky, she's a good poet and very cool person.

3:14 PM, July 08, 2005  

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