Friday, December 08, 2017

`A Plainspoken, Dark Humor'

I’m late reading John Foy, and now a reader has suggested I visit his web site. He’s a poet but the first words of his I read were prose, there on the home page:

“Generally, I’d say my poetry mulls over the grit and chime of a suboptimal world. Wars go on in the Middle East, my mother dies and the creatures of the field are `much the worse / for having been beneath the rotor blades.’ My poems are by turns contemplative and savage, invoking Meister Eckhart but acknowledging that `we die like dogs in the deep snow.’ They take account of what gets lost to war, accident and time. If they offer solace, it’s in a plainspoken, dark humor.”

That’s a mensch, a good guy, somebody worth paying attention to. He probably won’t waste your time. “Grit and chime” is good. So is the mock-scientific “suboptimal.” The first quoted lines are from Foy’s poem “Killing Things,” which is about poetry and the fragility of living things, and the second set comes from “Condolences.” I haven’t seen even one of Foy’s books yet, and hadn’t heard his name until Thursday morning, but he sparked not just interest but conditional trust. I like the way he quotes different lines from Julius Caesar in separate essays, which suggests he knows it. He likes Catullus and Thomas Hardy, and refers (affectionately, I think) to Yvor Winters as “the old pessimist.” He writes his poems consciously and conscientiously:

“There are things we do say and things we could say, in moments of perfect clarity and articulation. My poetry is a negotiation between those two states. It’s pinned down to the real but always reaching higher, with a form built into the lines through meter, unobtrusive rhyme and sonic echoes.”

And here he is in a self-interview:

“I have grown very tired of the war between free verse and formal poetry. Both done well are worthy; little of both is done well. We may have lots more people writing poetry now, so there are greater quantities of it everywhere, like pizza, but now as in most periods of history, the majority of it is not great and won’t last.  Genius is not democratic.  It doesn’t care about you or your rights under the law. Vicious idea!”

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