September 30, 2007

Valerie Coulton, Passing World Pictures (Apogee, 2003). 54 pages of non-paginated poetry. $12.95.

Among the books I bought at Laurie's used bookshop in the Nicolette Mall area of Minneapolis over the weekend. The bookstore has a special shelf for "hyper-modern" poetry (as they called it) next to the staircase downward to whichever sections don't merit a top floor designation. Literature (that is fiction, poetry [ie. poetry of the Pre-Moderns & Moderns], and drama) are all treated equally alpha by author last name on the entry-ground floor.

I like going to this bookstore because I end up buying books that go against my usual reading proclivities.


Arun Kolatkar, Jejuri
Morri Creech, Field Knowledge
Valerie Coulton, Passing World Pictures

Of Valerie Coulton's book: I read it in a sitting. It can be read quickly like that. Then I re-read it in the same setting; I was that engaged. There are 203 appropriated lines drawn from a single text on Japanese culture meant for a foreign audience to her 92 original lines.

There is the poetic concern of appropriation as source and form to a poem in the post-poem jaded era. Coulton acknowledges such in the front & end matter of the book by listing the source material twice, as well as italicizing borrowed text throughout. She clearly wants to point readers to the source, a material beyond the reach of the casual reader: We Japanese the 1934 and 1937 editions.

Despite the pointing, the text is very much her own, and it's a beautiful read: cut, spliced, & transitioned to make a poetic argument:

inkstones rubbed
between her sleep

oarsmen push
wave's body

parts are numbered
stored away


Someone please remind me of the html to properly indent text lines. These couplet lines are cascaded left to right in the text.



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