Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Simon Pettet

Simon Pettet’s More Winnowed Fragments opens with a poem of profound modesty:

      My Methodology

      I accrue hordes

      and then

      winnow away,

      It is a thankless task,

      tho not without

      occult comfort.

The tongue-in-cheek title suggests the jargon of an "artist's statement" or thesis prospectus. But then comes the poem, and the title's confident authority now stands in contrast to the patient Sisyphean labor of the poet -- who not only makes a heap of all that he can find (to paraphrase David Jones paraphrasing Nennius) but undoes it in the search for what has been there, not yet recognized, all along. The work of winnowing away and condensing is indeed "a thankless task," but it's also a steady job ("No layoff / from this / condensery," as Lorine Niedecker says in "Poet’s Work"). And the work may reward both poet and reader with "occult comfort" (not "cold comfort"), as in the sudden music of the poem's final two lines, in which each word turns into its neighbors' close relation.
Simon Pettet is a wonderful poet. Above, an excerpt from a review I've written for Jacket of his 2005 book More Winnowed Fragments. You can read the review by clicking on the link.
» Mysterious connective tissue (Review of Simon Pettet's More Winnowed Fragments, from Jacket)

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