I.E. Reader, second post: Graham Foust
This morning I was reading Wallace Stegner’s novel Crossing to Safety (in the bathtub, for those who track this kind of thing), and was struck by a chapter about a dinner party of some young English professors at the University of Wisconsin in the early middle of the last century. There is a lot in that section to grab my attention, including the academic climate just after the depression (people still cared about Chaucer and Spencer like they mattered), the drinking habits just after prohibition (capable hosts couldn’t mix a Manhattan), and the social dynamic between husbands and wives who could read Homer in Greek, and who would stand around the piano and sing hymns after dinner then listening to Beethoven A-sides in the sitting room. What fun!
One striking moment came when Sid, the party’s host, read from a volume of Housman, and everyone knew he was leading things a bit, but they indulged him as he read “Easter Hymn.” Then they discussed it in terms of what it meant for understanding the rest of Housman’s work, how it seemed too Christian for the old guy, how the two stanzas seemed out of order — and I loved reading all that. It made me 10 minutes late for work. Then I wondered if it would be possible for a contemporary poet to revisit Housman. Certainly no one today ought to go back and emulate him directly — he’s too transparent, too wrought in scansion and sentimental in thought to be compelling nowadays — but is anyone who’s any good making an update?
Well, below the fold, check out Graham Foust’s poem in the I.E. Reader, which is so primarily ahead of the surveillance that I was jolted to read it. It’s so throwback:
TODAY THE BARRICADES
are only turnstiles, and it’s true it’s such
that just enough God is too much,
that feeling is instantly memory, theory:
In the last of the collapse, I hurt early
and in color; I’d eat miles of tasteless
shapes from each citizen’s hand.
Cold flags whip the empty.
They don’t give trophies for frenzy,
do they? On a different day,
a different kind of day,
I’d stick me to some blessed
and irrelevant stand.
There’s a lot more of a lot more in the rest of the book, as I’ve said here before because I’m so proud of this Baltimore thing. There’s like Bruce Andrews and Gina Myers and Tom Orange, who is just crazy. I saw him read at AWP last year and he actually just ran in circles for a while and then ran out of the venue and then came back in. Get it now in pre-orders (shipping immediately, I think?) before it comes out at SPD for more money.