Sunday, February 19, 2012

Aimless Reading: The R's, Part 18 (Kit Robinson)

Down and Back
Robinson, Kit
Down and Back

Plucked this little gem from the Just Buffalo library before it got sold off.

It's the only book by Kit Robinson I actually own, but it's a good one to have, containing as it does the poem for which he is best known, "In The American Tree." I believe he used this as the title of a Bay Area radio program he produced with Lyn Hejinian in the seventies. And of course Ron Silliman borrowed the title (and the poem) for his iconic anthology of language writing.

I think Kit Robinson qualifies as a "poet's poet." I would define a poet's poet as a poet widely admired by his peers without being as widely known or appreciated as some of them.

But what makes a given poet a poet's poet?

Perhaps a kind of humility that, while serving the poet well in the execution of his art, harms him in a marketplace that, while trumpeting loudly the importance it places on artistic integrity, in practice values personal style, self-mythologizing biographical narratives, and the will of the group.

I am not sure if I ever met Kit Robinson. He's been to Buffalo several times, but I feel like I missed him nearly every time. I may have seen him read once when I was in graduate school, and I may have said hello, but if I did my memory of the event has disintegrated. Thus, I cannot speak to Robinson's personal humility, but I can say he's an awesome poet and that more people should read him.

from Down and Back

In The American Tree

A bitter wind taxes the will
causing dry syllables
to rise from the throat.

Flipping out wd be one alternative
simply rip the cards to pieces
amid a dense growth of raised eyebrows.

But such tempest (storm) doors
once opened, resistance fades away

and having fired all the guns you find you are left with a ton of butter,

Which, if it isn't eaten by some lurking rat
hiding out under the gate, may well be picked

up by the wind and spread all over

The face you're by now too chicken to admit is yours.
Wheat grows between bare toes
of a cripple barely able to hold his or her breath

And at the crack of dawn

we howl for more
beer. One of us produces

A penny from his pocket
and flips it at the startled
who has been spying on her from behind the flames

That crackle up from the wreck.
The freeway is empty now, moonlight
reflecting brightly off the belly of a blimp,

And as you wipe the read from your eyes

and suck on the lemon someone has given you,
you notice a curious warp in the sequence

Of event suggesting a time loop

in which bitter details repeat
themselves like the hands of a clock

Repeat their circular travels in a dream-
like medium you find impossible to pierce :
it simply spreads out before you, a field.

Now you are able to see a face

in the slope of a hill,
tall green trees

Are its hard features,

a feather floats down
not quite within grasp

And it is Spring.
The goddess herself

is really

Feeling great.
Space assumes the form of a bubble

whose limits are entirely plastic.

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