Poetry News

Robert Archambeau Reads Anthony Madrid's Try Never

By Harriet Staff
Anthony Madrid, Try Never , cover

At Hyperallergic, Robert Archambeau provides a glimpse at Anthony Madrid's latest collection of poetry, Try Never, out now from the crazy geniuses at Canarium. "If we were looking for a pocket-sized synopsis of Madrid’s poetics," Archambeau writes, "his answer to Pound’s 'Make it new' or Wordsworth’s 'spontaneous overflow of feelings recollected in tranquility' — we could do worse than to go with 'the wrongness is right.'" From there:

At the very least, it’s a good clue as to how we might read his latest collection, Try Never (Canarium, 2017).

Try Never consists of seventeen poems, each of them a series of stanzas, of which each stanza is one or another form of englyn, a venerable Welsh poetic form in three or four lines. Madrid’s primary inspiration seems to come from a twelfth-century Welsh manuscript known as the Red Book of Hergest, a treasury of the englyn. He draws particular inspiration from works collected in the manuscript that give bits of epigrammatic wisdom between insistent returns to a refrain. A translation from the Welsh reads:

Mountain snow, everywhere white;
A raven’s custom is to sing;
No good comes of too much sleep.

Mountain snow, white the ravine;
By rushing wind trees are bent;
Many a couple love one another
Though they never come together.

The function of the refrain is primarily rhythmic — a drumbeat to which we return. There’s a sense in which seeking meaning in it is futile, or beside the point. No one sweats over the meaning of “A-tisket, a-tasket,” or the relation of those syllables to the image of a green and yellow basket. But “Mountain snow” differs from “A-tisket, a-tasket” in having semantic meaning, so for many readers the poem will seem to invite us to play a connect-the-dots game. How do we draw a line between the aphoristic utterances and the context announced at the beginning of the stanza? Can we? Trees bent in the wind and lovers who love without coming together? “Okay,” we might say, “the image of the trees bending in tandem with the same wind might work as an emblem of souls in sympathy, while bodies remain apart.” But what about connecting a white-out blizzard and a saying about a raven, the upshot of which is not to fade out into sleep? Maybe there’s something here about fighting back against oblivion, not letting blankness overcome us.  Sometimes it takes a little hermeneutic elbow grease. The leap between image and utterance is the challenge and, sometimes, the delight.

Read on at Hyperallergic.

Originally Published: September 11th, 2017