Monday, October 27, 2008

crowing out ones heart

Sarah Arvio
Winner of the eleventh annual Boston Review poetry contest
Introduced by John Koethe
The idea of the distinctive poetic voice, once central to the very idea of poetry, has fallen into disrepute in recent decades, perhaps because of its association with tendentious notions of authenticity in the confessional poetry of the mid-twentieth century. Yet a certain uniformity in much of the poetry written by younger American poets suggests that individual voice might be due for a revival, but freed from its association with the poet’s actual psychological self. It certainly seems central to Sarah Arvio’s poetry, which sounds like no one else’s. Yet the voice in her poems seems to emanate from a kind of psychic doppelganger, originating from an imagined self somewhere outside her and passing through her on the way to the reader. It writes the self from which it issues, rather than the other way around, and is constructed out of wordplay and verbal associations. Its remoteness from the autobiographical is implicit in this group of poems, which juxtapose the Stevensian smoothness of the tercets with a more ragged and disjunctive syntax. Most poetry involves verbal associations at the level of sound, but seldom in as undisguised a fashion as Arvio’s. The results are poems that possess both an eerie psychological presence and a blunt verbal materiality.
—John Koethe
Small War

I thought I had left behind the darkness

of the heart it was a plan leaving it

behind I planned to enter the trance of

sensual peace and fulfillment that was

my plan But the best-laid plans I say and

pause thinking it better not to mention

mice with their trail of dark images strange

scurry into dark holes the sense of un-

cleanliness the gamey smell a small-game

smell Oh there’s a better word game the game

of the heart small game that’s good too like small

arms and light weapons this is a small war

a small dark and secret war of the heart

The deer running fleet chased by the hounds

No not that game Heart war against all plan

thrusting out of its dark hole and

scurrying through the room of the life

Scurry or gallop the sound of horses’

hooves beating on the distant hill I’ve heard

that and thought they were running through my heart

Great gallop on the hill of a dark heart

Though war is too great a word even

small war when we remember the torture

chambers the real torture on the real flesh

the bullet piercing the flesh-and-blood heart

There are no words great or small to describe

the private torture of the hounded heart

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