With epigraphs ranging from Horace to Shakespeare to Lyn Hejinian, Judith Goldman does an excellent job at embracing her witty poetic humor in her most recent poetry book, l.b.; or, caternaries. This collection is perhaps Goldman’s experimentalist humor tour-de-force, and news about its release has created a ton of buzz this year. You will be happy to know that this poetry book is a lengthy one—about 200 pages thick—but is also a quick and highly entertaining read, especially when taking time to consider thoughtfully as a reader the various forms in her poetry series that shape-shift between ideas surrounding progressive struggles, such as “We’ll taper off passive aggressively Whatever’s Adjacent / ‘cause Headquarters is / Out / Feeding the meter” into the connotative sex that surrounds us in our demotic life (“Ok, let’s blow this hamlet, / Will you please to cunt her clickwise?”). Goldman displays keenness, in particular, for surprising enjambments, anaphora, and experimental caps and punctuation with consistent undertones of religious ambivalence, Elizabethan dialect and strike-through, all of these characteristics leading to results which are nothing less than absolutely hilarious (“Culture, culture, culture, / oink, this is not prigmatical / this oinkos can’t withstand centrifugal, shagged, yea or neigh-eigh-eigh / oink you for shipping here”).
However, it should be noted that Judith Goldman creates lines with surreal nuances, and so she seems concerned with much more than simple fun and games. As Alan Halsey puts it, “There are some funny and painful stories timing out among her whiplash puns and quickfire fragments. ‘This is el dorado, reader / your face / paved with gold’: here’s a mirror, take a look” (emphasis added). This summation is accurate, as painful notions—especially the struggles of social-political progressiveness— abound in this collection as well, with several nods to academic vice such as in the phrase “brothels of mimesis,” the at times intangible struggle of “just getting by” with “[s]craping / the bottom of the bowl,” to the performativity of demotic living with “truth is not enough: This / is just its Social Character.” Here and at other points, Judith Goldman succeeds at personifying the anthropologic other (though its true identity is evasive to this reader) into immediacy and thus relevancy via “sum of the parts equals the whole.” The abstract beginning word to the final phrase, “truth,” is deemed by Goldman as decidedly un-circumstantial since it is incomplete (“not enough”) and finally, the word “this” is a classic Ashberyesque undefined term that is just its Social Character—something that to me is not necessarily complete per se but is an agential entity in and of itself.
February 1st, 2013 / 12:00 pm