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Peter’s Poem

By Eileen Myles

I suppose I could quote from Peter’s poem that begins:

Between autumn and spring I sleep inside a column

streaming semen from the sky a time for mapping

and counting is done and it feels really good

just letting the waves make their own history

and I already I feel good, satisfied. The year is ending. And Peter’s sonnet-ish sized poems that are untitled and all fall under the rubric Helsinki (which is the new Iceland) are some kind of euphoric triumph of scale. In terms of snugness they feel kind of “hey we’re all in here” like Ted Berrigan’s sonnets do/did but really only and exactly in the way that they feel entirely packed. And yet Ted’s are earthly and Peter’s could only I think be written in a time when we do click and wind up flipped into another landscape in another part of the galaxy or in another time – we’ll get even better and better equipped for our travels while the technology soars ahead but for now the possibilities of imagination feel rubbery and transcendent and Peter Richards’ poem is a poem only from a literary moment such as ours in which you might need choose to be tight and small (and mournful in relation to the concept of “the state” in a way that I think only Adrienne Rich has previously mastered. Like her Peter is a Roman poet. He is sadly watching the great Republic that has fostered him die) because you’re actually both scared and excited. I grab onto this one particular poem that contained both semen and the situated pleasure of sleeping inside a column. Peter Richards’ poem is both infinitesimally human and inanimate as well. In terms of awe all this sensate creature (the narrator, the journeyman assembler) feels is the ecstasy of measure and even the quiet farmer’s joy of endorsing the wellness of his own project. Peter’s poem is a note from long ago which is now. Already happened fast. I mean he probably constructed these poems by a familiar pastiche method yet that’s almost suggesting that vocabulary or taste doesn’t trump method all the time. Pastiche is simply what we do and Peter’s cryptic and erotic sample is elegant and adventurous and small in a way that is alternately perverse, smiley and generally looking up. If there is a narrator here he is a gentleman, that is a choice. I would say he generally feels gay but not decorative. In his hands the homoerotic option feels expansive rather than opportunistic. Peter’s pallet is rich. Just when you think you’ve got his project perceptually nailed he breaks into like here, something De Sade-like:

IT FOLLOWS THEN THAT THE SUBJECT IS NOT

ATOMICALLY ESTABLISHED

I accept that if you cut me I do not bleed

IT FOLLOWS THEN THAT THE SUBJECT IS A HOLE MADE OF STUBBLE

no that is not true there is a limit

Yes there is a limit. Peter’s poem is a letter I have just received. I put it down and then I pick it up again. And now a crown of geese is circling in the window.


Posted in Featured Blogger on Saturday, December 31st, 2011 by Eileen Myles.