Monday, May 08, 2006

The Form of Language vs. What That Language is Saying

I was delighted to find two copies of Shenandoah in my mailbox today (I had to order and pay for them, mind you), and to find the rumors are true: Vol. 56, No. 1 (Spring/Summer 2006) includes a review of Riverfall by Peter Kline. In addition to the favorable review (some excerpts below) there is poetry by two of my all-time favorites in the issue, to boot: Mary Oliver and Brendan Galvin! Indeed, the second poem in Riverfall, "The Best Time for Reading Poetry," mentions those poets (as well as A.R. Ammons) by name.

Kline's review has been the most in-depth so far. I don't think it's the longest, but discusses the techniques, technical aspects, and influences of and on the poems more than the others. Some excerpts:

"In fact, many of the best poems in Riverfall are those that most audibly echo the voice of another poet. Ammons in particular is a rich vein for Buntin to mine; the bare, existential "I," bereft of history or context, becomes a powerful tool in Buntin's constant interrogation of the engagement between the human and the natural world."


"Buntin's provisional solution to the divide between humans and nature lies in the transformative power of art. Over and over he uses the imaginitive world of the poem to blur the division between nature and humans. Metamorphosis becomes not only the method but the subject of these poems."


"Throughtout Riverfall, Buntin employs a hard, authoritative diction to great effect. Objects, animals and plants are all called by their most specific names...."

and finally

"It is important to note, however, that Buntin is not nearly as interested in the form of language as in what that language is saying. The poems of Riverfall succeed because they inventively express Buntin's most compelling visions, convictions and doubts. The poems matter to the reader because they matter so strongly to the poet."

I think that last part about the form of language vs. what that language is saying is interesting, and basically true for me, especially in the context of "nature poetry," which is not just about the prettiness of the natural world around us, but our place in it, and its place in us, and ultimately where that leads all of us. So none of the poems, with the possible exception of the first poem, "A Body of Water," which Kline spends the first third of the review addressing, is a slave to form. Yet for all of the poems, form is---if not binding, then certainly important. The lack of a form being just as important as the restrictions of form, in some cases, and moreso in others.

Intriguing ideas: well articulated, worth pondering. The full review is available here.


Suzanne said...

WOW! Way to go!

StrawBoss said...

Congratulations Simmons! Judy

Simmons B. Buntin said...


shann said...

I'm glad you found one- there is not a copy available in Richmond, VA- of course i hadn't gotten out to the Short Pump B& N west of town- but the 2 closest to me didn't have it, nor did Border's.

but congrats and YEA!!!

I'm mailing chapbook soon, maybe friday-

gina said...

Congrats, dear Simmons!

LitByFire said...

Way to go Simmons--that's just lovely.