Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Pax Abecedaria

I'm in the middle of my second reading of Campbell McGrath's Pax Atomica, which I'm enjoying greatly. The book is densely populated with cultural references, and these create an intriguing atmosphere; I feel like I'm at a late night poetry reading staged in front of a giant television laying a soft soundtrack of static and the voice of Ron Popeil. I think the shorter poems in the collection work better, but then I usually think shorter poems work better; it's a bias I admit to.

But I'm fascinated with the four (yes, FOUR) abecedarians in this collection of 22 poems. McGrath turns a simple (and too often simplistic) form on its head by presenting it 4 ways: backwards, interrupted (all the letters in order but in discrete irregular stanzas), eventual (lingering for several lines on certain letters) , and traditional (and a love song to Xena: Warrior Princess, besides). To me these alphabets, along with the repeated terza rima efforts, are like a sturdy fence on which the observational snapshots of F-Troop and Led Zeppelin and Clint Eastwood and Payless Shoes are hung - it's the care and respect for language that makes the content more meaningful. Very refreshing, since my most frequent argument of late is about writers "not burdened by" (read: not caring enough to apply) form and careful word choice.

The collection as a whole is discussed in a great short review (where I relearned the term "terza rima") by Gianmarc Manzione over at MiPOesias. There's also a nice interview with McGrath (from the great Poets Q&A series) at Smartish Pace.

1 comment:

Peter said...

I love abecedaria; I'll have to check this out . . . thx