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Geof Huth Emulates Douglas Rothschild’s Poetic Forms in a Review of Theogeny
The title of this attempt at a review of Douglas Rothschild’s book of poetry, Theogeny, a text that seems to avoid criticism by being both all things as well as often being flagrantly apoetic, is an old saying of mine, and an important one. If you want to define the settledness of existence (are we not all solipsists at heart?) by defining first things, you’ll always find that you cannot define a believable inception, only a continuance.
Huth’s review is actually an “emulation” of Rothschild’s book, which is–as Huth defines it–actually seven books. And so Huth writes seven “poems” in the respective styles displayed in Theogeny. Huth finds them to be “Textual Queries,” “Christmas Book,” “Last Day at Work: Trip to X-Towers” (& with Douglas we see / the provincialness of New / York (cf. Saul Steinberg’s / view of New Yorkers’ view / from 9th Avenue). Everything / so small and given over to / rubbish”), “February 28, 2001,” “Poems from a Green Notebook,” “Pomo’s Re-Vision,” and “The Minor Arcana,” which is broken into numbered stanzas. An example from this last one:
This book sounds like Douglas, he talks as
he speaks, he yells as he shouts:
“i was like, NO! NO! It’s Steinbrenner.
Doesn’t anyone remember?” which is pure
Douglas. I’ve heard him speak in this way
many a time. He is a political ranter, and
the politics is politics or capitalism (the
difference is?) or poetry or the media.
He rants against the media. Against us,
against Americans so afraid that they’ll
give up any right to pretend they are safe.
Against the calculus of fear that keeps
people docile, even when they seem
angry. This is all pre-Tea-Party, pre-
but it presages it. Douglas was angry
before most of us were, and his is
a kind of political poetry so specific,
so specific in the details of its rancor
that we might not be able to under-
fifty years from now, but it has the
sound of something real. (For 1980s
zinesters, there’s something in the
cadence and language of these poems
that reminds me of the White Boy
poems of Paul Weinman.)
I worry about poets who are, as I say,
“trapped by their tropes,” who do over
again what they’ve done so often before.
Douglas’ poems cohere somewhat in
language, yet this rambling (because
multiply-focused) rant of his is some
thing different than what’s come before.
The bile has risen higher, the language
has been stripped of its poetry so that
the poetry is the outrage itself, he speaks
now in the cadence of a preacher against
evil in Washington Square Park, he is
all colloquialism and slang, the language
thwacks against the side of the head,
then thwacks again, it’s a poetry written
as if poetry actually matters, and
we have to thank Douglas for that.
Huth concludes his review with a simple paragraph, though Rothschild “ends the book with a prose coda, in two columns per page (and we have to assume the columns are meaningful).” It’s here that Huth speculates (“paraphrasing, extending, reading what I see within his words”) that Rothschild’s focus on 9/11 and the sense people needed to make of it “demonstrates how any deeper meaning is immediately undermined, that it carries no meaning, only carnage from external sources followed by carnage from within.”