Monday, April 28, 2008

Pleiades review of Bjorling

Michael Snediker has a brilliant review of Gunnar Björling's You go the words (translated by Fredrik Hertzberg) in the new Pleiades. If you can, check it out. I think this is a really fine analysis of Björling's work, not just a review.

Here is the beginning:

"Had Gertrude Stein written in teh austere lattices of George Oppen, she might have approximated (but only approximated) Björling's particular enterprise. Like that of Stein, Björling's radical commitment to the phenomenological experience and effect of poetry (as read, as written) thrills and simultaneously exhausts. Hertzberg's translation of Björling's final book - published in its original Swedish in 1960, teh year also of Björling's death - remains faithful to Björling's own lucid and exasperating austerity... This is poetry over which to stumble, poetry that jars; which seems, at least to me, the best sort."


"I think here of John Ashbery's perspicacious review of the Yale Edition of Stein's Stanzas in Meditation:

These austere 'stanzas' are made up almost entirely of colorless connecting words... though now and then Miss Stein throws in an orange, a lilac, or an Albert to remind us that it really is the world, our world, that she has been talking about... The result is like... a piece of music by Webern in which a single note on the celestra suddenly irrigates a whole desert of dry, scratchy sound in the strings.


"This is to say (somewhat counterintuitively) that the pathos of Björling's poetry arises less as pathos of circumstance than of grammar. Björling's writing is most moving in its quickening of grammar's smallest elements (beyond syntactical infrastructure), in its preference for these grammatical molecules over the forms of referentiality that ordinarily render the grammatical if not invisible then ancillary. To revise Ashbery's simile, You go the words asks us to hear its "colorless connecting words" as the Webern celesta."


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