Barbara Guest: “Bleat”

I just ordered Barbara Guest’s Collected Poems (Wesleyan, 2008), edited by daughter Hadley Hayden Guest and prefaced by Peter Gizzi. I’m only familiar with Fair Realism, so I’m looking forward to experiencing the trajectory of her work, the changes that it underwent during her life. I love the musicality of some of the work in Fair Realism. “Fugue” is sometimes used to describe such poetry. It’s not an exact parallel, but it does capture the idea of intertwining motifs and echoes—sonic, semantic, and metanymic—as well as the idea of the poem being a language and a thing unto itself, opaque yet also, strangely, lucid. Guest’s music isn’t so decentered as to be dodecaphonic. Instead, hers is a music on the brink of atonality yet still somehow still exerting a centripetal force through its hints of tonality and its recurring motifs—akin, perhaps, to Messiaen, Bartok, and Stravinsky. Janacek also comes to mind.

Below is “Bleat,” a short poem from Fair Realism.

Barbara Guest, Fair Realism (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1995)
drawn on the burden of light
the pottery throw
in bleat turning
ballast makes fingers twitch
shutters close
“going to pour”
wet to root and pavement
tent sagging like an oyster
“the city has another soul”
gnat passes someone swallows
“another soul”
“the city also”
stole the bench and echoes
blight and shuttered bleat
soul chews a wilted corner
Camille Martin

One response to “Barbara Guest: “Bleat”

  1. Pingback: Roundup: Poetry Close Readings and Appreciations « Rogue Embryo

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