Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Martha Ronk - In a Landscape of Having to Repeat


I’m going back and rereading my favorite books of poetry these days, or at least I think I’m going to. So far, I’m rereading Martha Ronk’s In a Landscape of Having to Repeat. And then what will be next.



In a Landscape of Having to Repeat


In a landscape of having to repeat.
Noticing that she does, that he does and so on.
The underlying cause is as absent as rain.
Yet one remembers rain even in its absence and an attendant quiet.
If illusion descends or the very word you’ve been looking for.
He remembers looking at the photograph,
green and gray squares, undefined.
How perfectly ordinary someone says looking at the same thing or
I’d like to get to the bottom of that one.

When it is raining it is raining for all time and then it isn’t
and when she looked at him, as he remembers it, the landscape moved closer
than ever and she did and now he can hardly remember what it was like.



The Approximate Form of Beauty


The approximate form of beauty was where we stood looking out
at the beautiful view.
Backing off is the only way.
But I like it too much one of them said.
The approximate time is 11:42 and your time is up.
The relative motion of two objects moved.
Proximity is neither like nor not like.
A camellia in a glass bowl like the one yesterday.
Who’s to say this is like that or I like it or taking it in.
I write to you as an approximation of intimacy.
Doesn’t one want to move out over the edge.
You taste like grass, he said.
It was precisely 2:45.
A quarter of an hour becomes an arc, a repeated habit, the fixity of fixed ideas.
How odd to have had the thought, I’m going to have a splendid time.

10 Comments:

At 11/24/2010 8:51 AM, Blogger Elisa Gabbert said...

I want this book.

 
At 11/24/2010 9:52 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

Not that there is anything wrong with it, and not that they are not "accomplished," but the poems quoted here ARE good examples, are they not, of a by-now quite conventional, institutionally absorbed "hybrid" mode? The Georgian verse of our time?

 
At 11/24/2010 11:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've seen these poems dozens and dozens of times over the past five years in _Denver Quarterly_, _Conjunctions_ and _Fence_, to name a few. Every son and daughter of Brock-Broido, Bang, Streckfus, Wright, and Gizzi, to name a few, comes out of Columbia or Amherst or Brown or Wash. U or Alabama with the same garbled syntax and fractured scenes and overlapping points of view. This mode has become the most tired. Whatever happened to mastering form before unfolding it, perfecting syntax before tickling it out of shape or cleaving it, understanding unity before fracturing it?

 
At 11/24/2010 7:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kent and "Anonymous" are right (note: I'm Anonymous's twin brother, Anonymous). All you need to write poems like these are: an education at an Ivy League school such as Yale and an interest in poetry. The Ivy League education allows you a certain intellectual vocabulary. The interest in poetry makes you write poetry rather than, say, cultural criticism, or fiction, etc. What's lacking from these poems is risk, danger, emotion: one can read them and feel no fundamental change. They pass over you like commercials. They're rip-offs of Stevens without Stevens's skill or originality. I agree with Kent that they are "accomplished," but are they necessary? Do we feel, after reading them, that we're missing the tops of our heads? I still have mine and I, for one, go to poetry to have it blown off.

 
At 11/25/2010 1:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have not yet issued an opinion concerning Martha Ronk. Please stand by.

--The Rejection Group

 
At 11/25/2010 1:37 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Kent,

One can always dismiss writing in this way, especially these days, where there isn't a form of writing I can think of (including your own [or mine, or The Rejection Group]) that can't be termed "conventional" and " institutionally absorbed." We live in a particularly always already absorbed time. (Apologies to Bernstein.)

 
At 11/25/2010 1:51 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Anon siblings,

"This mode has become the most tired."

and

"I agree with Kent that they are 'accomplished,' but are they necessary?"


We all have our own lists of modes that are tired. For me, Ronk's mode (yes, it's a mode others also write in) is not one of them. It might be for you . . . but to imply that there is a "that was SO last year" about it is to fold into a fashionista argument.

I'm tired of fashion. I want something I can believe in. I'm tired of "make it new" and the whole "top of one's head coming off" thing.

I'm interested in the way Ronk works what feels like direct conversation, but outside of any formal concern for communication. I'm continually charmed and puzzled by it, and I love reading it over and over.

 
At 11/25/2010 5:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On a Thanksgiving of having to reheat.
Noticing that she does, that he does and so on.
The underlying cause is, "Please pass the Ashberry sauce."
Yet one remembers pie even in its absence and an attendant hunger.
If hunger descends or the very thing you've been looking for.
He remembers looking at the meal,
festive and with placemats, undefiled.
How perfectly ordinary someone says looking at the same turkey or
I'd like to eat to the bottom of that one.

When I am hungry I am hungry for all time and then
I'm not
and when she looked at him, as he remembers it,
the turkey moved closer
than ever and she did and now he can hardly
remember what she tasted like.

 
At 11/25/2010 5:32 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Don't forget the parade and football!

 
At 11/26/2010 12:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For me Ronk's poems are both maddening and engaging: part of me is put-off by the world-weariness/Joan Didionesque/ultra-knowing (within unknowing)tone, and other parts are intrigued by just those elements; if a microscope could daydream/develop a lazy eye (not sure what a lazy eye is but am pretty sure it's a colloquialism, and at the moment I like it) I imagine the tracings could look like a Ronk poem. Maybe another way of putting it would be much of her work within the last ten years strikes me as a cross between jaded and jade, its blues and greens, its lustres, plus its lack of dazzle, lack of spark. I tend towards favoring emeralds, but her poems are also consistently insistently informing some threads of my own poems: I've immitated her more than anyone.

adam strauss

 

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