Ron Padgett is every bit the off -hand and fresh-phrasing poet Billy Collins wants to be, and it's his particular genius to write in such a way that he hears what is truly and spontaneously poetic in actual speech and yet has the sense to contain the vernacular with real cadence and rhythm. Though he is eager to avoid the idea of being the Poet/Priest officiating over the mundane life oracle-like in his verse depositions of the every day and the noticed and familiar, Collins seem The Professional all the same, and not in a way I intend as complimentary. Admirable though it is that he seeks to be remain approachable to a reader with only a glancing interest in poetry, his poems are too neat, orderly, the illogic that ought to be at work behind the machinery of language operating much too logically as they arrive at those last stanzas, last lines, and concluding images that are supposed to make you gasp so slightly, close your eyes and wonder how it was the poem started with a man getting his mail or paying a bill and winding up in some other part of the world playing jazz records and reading airport novels.
Collins delivers,, he makes you laugh, cry, coo and ooh on schedule: in another existence I think he might have been the local human-interest columnist for a hometown newspaper, cleverly discussing characters community and bits of homelife three times a week, one thousand words a column, clever, effective, predictable in their habit of surprising people. Much as he likes jazz, there is not a moment of surprise in Collins' poems. But Padgett? He writes what he sees, he sings what he reads, he paints what he talks, which is to say that this poet, a grand figure in the New York School of poets, has a a genuine feel for the city vibe, artists , writers, trashman bar maids, cab drivers and street corner preachers and influencing his multiple-tongued qualities as a poet so that discourse in his poems, all discourse, whether dissertations or cookie recipes, become idiomatic and equal in their expressive and poetic potential. Padgett is a counter-puncher, a riffer, someone approach the chatter and prate of the big city leaning a little to the side, and back, as though anticipating a swing for his jawline.
Only a poet tuned into the weights and varying degrees of gravity a line of phrases and images can sound like if they're managed well can write these types of visual astute poems. His is a poetry of framing a perception at the moment it occurs, a sense of the banal giving rise to new formations of thought; the world is askew despite what appears to be sameness and order, and Padgett's method of ordering it all is askew as well. There is in him a capacity to be surprised without sounding like he's a taffy-headed cretin. There is wonder here, not wondering, which is to say he provides the reader with a clarity that incredibly manages to add to the mystery of the thing or emotion he's trying to contain.
RialtoWhen my mother said Let’s go down to the Rialtoit never occurred to me that the name Rialtowas odd or from anywhere else or meant anythingother than Rialto the theatre in my hometownlike the Orpheum, whose name was only a phonemewith no trace of the god of Poetry, thoughlater I would learn about him and about the bridgeand realize that gods and bridges can fly invisiblyacross the ocean and change their shapes and landin one’s hometown and go on living thereuntil it’s time to fly again and start all overas a perfectly clean phoneme in the headsof the innocent and the openon their way to the Ritz.
FixationIt's not that hard to climb upon a cross and have nails driveninto your hands and feet.Of course it would hurt, butif your mind were strong enoughyou wouldn't notice. Youwould notice how much fartheryou can see up here, howthere's even a breezethat cools your leaking blood.The hills with olive groves fold into other hills with roads and huts,flocks of sheep on a distant rise
NOTHING IN THAT DRAWERNothing in that drawer.Nothing in that drawer.Nothing in that drawer.Nothing in that drawer.Nothing in that drawer.Nothing in that drawer.Nothing in that drawer.Nothing in that drawer.Nothing in that drawer.Nothing in that drawer.Nothing in that drawer.Nothing in that drawer.Nothing in that drawer.Nothing in that drawer.
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