With so many worthy sentences in the realm of the sayable, with so many great sentences already loved and savored in this series — I, nearly at random, cracked open Will Alexander’s The Sri Lankan Loxodrome (New Directions, 2009), the latest volume by one of our premier neo-surrealists, and immediately found myself in the midst of this marvelously manic monologue, of this ecstatic accretion of clauses, of this dramatic flurry of draw-dropping diction, of this intense and itinerant imagination, of what Andrew Joron has appreciatingly called “a new glyph of meaning,” of what Harryette Mullen has aptly termed “a complex sentence machine”:
I execute at random
as a sun-engrained scholar
with the psychic limitations of a strident vertiginous pronoun
studded with acquisitive majesty
for the one spinning day
near the 5 ghostly fragments around the sun
& I’ve named these fragments
according to their upper or lower arboreal declaration
according to the way they face the earth
according to the nectareous condition of the motion of the mind
being always jeopardous
yet I can see
I am photopic
I am able to breath blood
I know the “Southwest Monsoon Current”
I know the “Central Indian Ridge”
I know the nautical forms from the “Arabian Coast”
absorbing my visions from the “Tibetan Plateau”
& so the Weddell Sea
or the Greenland Current
mean nothing to me
as extrinsic distraction
5,500 meters from my aura
yet I always think of waters from heaven
of aeronautical carbon
of a halo of meteors
9 thoughts on “A Sentence about a Sentence I Love”
It might have been his use of “sun-engrained” which reminds me of “sun-cusped” in Hart Crane’s “Ave Maria,” not to mention the many expressive hyphenations throughout his poems, but then the use of archaisms like “nectareous” and “jeopardous,” and also unusual words like “typhlotic” and “photopic,” that signaled to me Crane’s influence on Will Alexander, but then this poem’s concentration on water forms and light kind of sealed it.
Interesting take, John. As far as influence, everyone seems to talk about Alexander and Cesaire.
Certainly both Crane and Alexander are poets of diction– poets who really draw on the varied and often recondite resources of English for maximum effect and intensity.
But, influence? I’m not sure if I would calll it that…Crane has this lofty rhetorical style, a kind of sculptured classicism (perhaps it’s his penchant for the pentameter line) that doesn’t seem much like the looser way that Alexander unfurls anaphoric clauses of variable length–maybe it’s a matter of pacing and cadence. And I guess I always imagine Alexander on the fringes of an Anglo-American tradition while Crane seems very much in a line of great versifiers from Spenser through the Romantics.
But Crane’s compound words– those are really something, huh? I’m looking at “Cape Hatteras” and I see “star-glistered,” “space-gnawing,” and “oak-vizored.” Powerful stuff…
Ha! I figured it was a stretch. I still can’t help thinking it’s in there somewhere, like a song in a different time signature. I’m afraid I haven’t read Césaire in going on twenty years, but the connection makes absolute sense. Those anaphoric clauses are reminiscent of Césaire’s in “Gunnery Warning,” and other poems, I’d imagine.
Thanks for posting about this, Michael. I really like that excerpt. I’m going to have to check this book out…
My thanks, too, Michael. What a beautiful passage. I can’t figure out what makes it work so well, I keep reading it. I think whatever it is that resists me coming to an understanding is what makes it so compelling. It feels like there’s real intention there, but I can’t quite tell what’s intended. It’s like I’ve been invited by Alexander to work with him to uncover intentions he himself can’t quite get a grip on.
Definitely do so, Adam! I’d also suggest _Exobiology as Goddess_ (2004).
That’s well put, Ken: Alexander really inhabits his language to such an extent that it does feel like there’s “real intention”– not mere “word play.”