Tuesday, May 15, 2012



One Sleeps the Other Doesn’t by Jacqueline Waters
(Ugly Duckling Presse, Brooklyn, 2011)

The speaker in Jacqueline Waters’ poem “The Tax” declares: “it was anxiety that led me to love.” Rather dramatic, but this statement nonetheless possesses the feeling of being true: The risk of loving met by the risk of not.

This is anxious writing. A delicate balance is sought between getting down what needs be said and withholding what must not be yielded to. Waters isn’t one to glad hand matters any, however, she’d rather let the business fend for itself. And as she is all-poet matters of form come first. Poetry is no sloppy or lackadaisical pursuit of hers.

If these’re the new habits let them split
like hands on the arms of a chair
making room
to grow familiar, letting the head
fall forward in drowsiness
as leaves, blossoms, etc.
bend inward and sway

(from “Aptecon”)

Form locates its own form. Like to like: each to each. In romantic relationships we’re too often haunted most by what is left unsaid. It’s no different for poets than it is for business professionals. Everybody’s just a plain silly acting mammal when it comes down to it. Waters is looking for the limits of our shared behavior traits, how far is far enough (and also, who is pushing who, anyway?

A poet is a clown
In a good way
The purpose
Is to entertain people
You can be more smart than funny
Perhaps not even
Funny at all

(from “The Tax”) 

There’s no obligation to be anything other than what you are. Poems best represent both themselves and the poet behind them when they understand this. Best live it, be in the moment—more immediate the better, or as Waters puts it here: “I don’t have moments I have instants” (“The Garden of Eden a College”).

The risks of living are never measured better than by a healthy awareness of one’s existence.  “Forever the cost of being human / will be an affront to the means of being better” (“Young Nohejl at Naples”). Don’t doubt there’s no escaping paying your due. Be on guard or get counted out.

Waters is searching. If she’s lucky she’ll never find any answers. Lying in bed sleep not coming on your partner resting easy in dream is a charmed life. Rare does it last.

no sleep at first, dream
about a patch of bog
paved over by the broad margin
Thoreau loves to his life:

“I love a broad margin to my life”

            it was lovely to say
                        that it was raining
                        and to mean
                                    that part of you was low: half the pleasure
                                    was suspecting yourself
                                    on to something, the rest

                        fell from following
                        the first pleasure’s lead:
                        opening a book on the bar
                        in front of each empty chair
                        setting yourself
                        at the bar’s far end
                        till night, your own cloud of it
                        ran right to the orbs of your eyes.

This is from “A Ploy” the opening poem. Markedly crisp and clear, the images are a setting in which actions occur solo voce. The voice is heard. A mood set. It’s not to be beat.

Patrick James Dunagan lives in San Francisco and works in Gleeson library at the University of San Francisco. His most recent book is "There Are People Who Think That Painters Shouldn't Talk": A GUSTONBOOK (Post Apollo, 2011), other writing includes a plethora of book reviews and assisting Iranian poet Ava Koohbor with translating her poems from Farsi.  Some things are also likely to be appearing in issues of the Lightning'd Press house mag, 1913 Journal of Forms, Shampoo, and House Organ.  

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