Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Amazing Karesansui Poems

I am reading a slim volume of poems by the superb West Coast poet Carol Snow titled Placed: Karesansui Poems. It's taking me a long time to read because there are so few words. The title of each poem is a single preposition, and the view from each is into the karesansui garden, a small landscape garden designed to be viewed from a number of fixed vantage points.

The entire book is composed of a series of 70 poems, each titled with a preposition followed by a small collection of phrases separated by dashes, many of them in quotation marks, with meticulous documentation of their sources. This is, in fact, probably the most meticulous book of poems I have ever read!

And I am slow because the poems demand that. What are prepositions but linking words? They are entirely about relationships--temporal, spacial, logical. So the poems are meditations on relationship. Here is "Across," in its entirety:


each of its stones its own--on the scale of-- : from
a distance: an ocean

Some of the references are clear, others are pebbles dropped into the well, and it takes a long time for them to reach bottom. That's why this reading is so slow.

There is more silence in these poems than in any I have read since Dickinson. There is also more action, and hardly any-thing. An extraordinary collection.

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