Wednesday, September 30, 2009

D. E. Steward on "Augustos"

History, birds, and bicycling are concerns in “Augustos,” one of twenty-three consecutive years of month-to-month poems that together form the larger work called Chroma. Dissatisfied with the conventions of fiction and the patterns of verse composition, developing the structure and method of writing these months has been gratifying for me.

The irregular line breaks, the fragments as verse, the missing full stops, the color motifs, and the month designations are present throughout Chroma, and many of its months segue in some manner from one to the next. In “Augustos” the exotic allusions to distant places and events are not forced but part of my experience, as matter-of-fact as bicycling or swinging a scythe.

“Augustos” began from an August bicycle ride below anvil-cumuli near an old battlefield in the Piedmont. It finished under “the awesome, ringing welkin” of more dramatic clouds. The wonder of feeling the continuity of nature while staring agape at short-lived cottontails and imagining that the asphalt on which the bicycle rolls may be only slightly less permanent than they is crucial to the poem. Its use of uncommon terms like “welkin,” “gryllidine,” “spurtles,” “fleams,” “snaths,” “cecropia,” and “rowen” enhances the mood of past-in-the-present. As people in linsey-woolsey mowed, as others tamed crows, as the same insects have been there for eons, the clouds build and swell and “go on and on . . . beyond the curve of earth.” The poem’s message is perhaps, worship anything, worship clouds.

“Augustos” ignores too many formalities and inflates associations too intensely to be read as randomly cohesive observations. The stanzas or fragments are pulses delivered from the debouchure of the keyboard, work like this probably being impossible before the scrolling technology of word processing. The organization of notes buttressed by the gabions of search engines, enhanced by the ability to accumulate massively and cut to the bone with the ease of block deletes, are the means of composition here. In a language domain of ranging complexity coherence is relative, but the imposition of a particular memory and experience upon what I write about channels its disemboguement. Poetic source is without limits, it is as all the world. The word brings this stupendous complexity to ground, anchors it to the particular. Some particulars in “Augustos” are abstract, some immediate, and enough are autobiography to make the poem nearly the enemy of the verity of knowing and remembering—which of course is what imaginative writing is.