24 January 2011

One more on Warblers

I started getting the sense in the first few pages of Warblers that Skinner was using some sort of procedural method to write the poems. It's pretty clear, for instance, that the nonsense words wrapping around the chapbook's cover are homophonic translations of actual bird calls (nieff, schlepp tlep, zowee, etc.).

Skinner's notes on method at the end of the book are pretty interesting in this regard and certainly helped to reframe the poems for me:

"Most Warblers emerge from the following limiting factors:

1) ACQUAINTANCE: add the bird to your 'life list' before writing; 2) VOICE: listen to the bird's song, translating its rhythm and pitches; 3) PLUMAGE: note the bird's color and pattern; 4) BEHAVIOR: attend to habitat and details of foraging, breeding, nesting and migration; 5) RANGE: name a far away place, since warblers link humans across the hemispheres; 6) LANGUAGES: include words from poets writing in the North as well as the South--warblers feed on both sides of the border; 7)NONSENSE: acknowledge that warblers are restless, hard to see, and give you a crick in the neck."

With this note in mind, take a look at "Northern Parula," my favorite Warbler in the book:

Northern Parula

O Guadeloupe harelip
summer's enough now
wrong head threwn about
not withholding thoughts
the tundra dream's plosive
lit beneath wonder
puffed, fluffed throngs
midst coastal fog belts
probing flowering catkins
and scrubby thickets
wearing a yellow-green
tunic lichen, boots of
Spanish moss driving
slow-moving shortstacks
better be least gaunt
climbs and drops a note
enrabiado the martial
kid's id said, treetops
be hanging from twigs

It's great to see a swatch of Skinner's poems in one place, as he's notoriously slow to publish. Thanks again to Brian Teare's Albion Books for making it happen...

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