by Johannes Goransson on Dec.13, 2012
I’ve often heard the name Larry Levis but I haven’t read his until yesterday when I had 10 minutes to aimlessly wander around the contemporary poetry section of the library, and I just kind of picked a book at random, which I white liked.
I get a gun and go
shoot an airplane full of holes,
and stare at the thing on the runway
until its covered with rust.
This takes years.
I turn forty somewhere, waiting
for the jet underneath me to
clear its throat of burned
I love the humorous compression of time! Also, I usually hate how in James-Wright-influenced poems there’s this poetic moment at the end, where it’s supposed “earned”; I tend to feel, why not just get the poem interesting from the beginning. But here I like the ending in large part because it seems so sudden and un-earned. I think what makes these poems good are that they are always on the verge of total tastelessness and the narrator is often obscene and bordering on losing control in a very tasteless, spectacular way.
I take my last paycheck
and walk out wondering, touching
the quiet, visible gears
that aren’t turning, that run
on oil and starlight and wait
The gears are
as still as heaven or 2 clear eyes
and the sky goes suddenly blue,
clean as a bullet hole.
Again, we’ve got this poetic ending but again it seems over the top in a way that strikes me as a whiplash, surprise-ending more than “earned.”
OK, one more:
from For the Country
You are the sweet, pregnant,
teenage blonde thrown from the speeding car.
You are a dead, clean-shaven astronaut
orbiting perfectly forever.
You are America.
You are nobody.
I made you up.
I take pills and drive a flammable truck
until I drop.
I am the nicest guy in the world,
closing his switchblade and whistling.
I love here how the ending is actually a kind of trick ending – he’s the killer afterall! And how the meta moment “I made you up” doesn’t feel distanced, doesn’t escape the sinister energies that the poem sets in motion, forces, it seems, the narrator/poet to take pills and drive a suicidal mission with flammable truck.
What I like about this one is that it goes further than the previous two – he doesn’t just drop a hot poetic moment but gets filthy with the poetic, fails to extricate himself, has to delve further and further into the violence/art connection. It doesn’t just end on the poetic moment. Art is never earned.
Anyway, short post today. If anybody knows anything about this guy, feel free to chime in and tell me what else to read. The book I got these from is “Wrecking Crew.”