The Operating System and Liminal Lab

Poetry Month 30/30/30: Inspiration, Community, Tradition: DAY 3 :: Bill Considine on Elinor Nauen

Elinor Nauen: An Appreciation
Bill Considine

Elinor Nauen has written a remarkable book, So Late Into the Night, from Rain Mountain Press (2011). The book is a long poem in 8-line rhyming stanzas, the ottava rima of Byron’s Don Juan, with some medieval variations and half-hidden games.
Perhaps you’d like to hear more of Byron –
My master, my love, my poet, my guy –
And the traits that draw me to him: iron-
Y, for one, as modern as any high-
Tech gadget, and as assured. The siren
Allure of sympathy, thrills and sex. Why
He’s not everyone’s fave poet I don’t
Get. He isn’t for anyone who won’t Admit humor and human narrative
To the pantheon of poetic purpose.Ms. Nauen too has the range and fluid speed of Byron’s verse, the humor and… the plain-enough diction,
Smart allusions and dead-on depiction
In his characters and types.
The poem is autobiography, a life in full with frank insights. It’s the voice of a poet, a woman, a wife, a devoted friend, a child of the prairies and an East Village artist. She muses deeply and turns flippant. She has fun, and that’s one of the joys of the poem. The form is in masterful hands and knows it and shows it. She plays with words, for laughs and for the Word. At times the tone is instructive; she means to share what she’s learned, as well as what she’s loved. From rich experience – her portrait of the St. Marks Poetry Project in its early days is lively and amusing – she tells what she knows of living as a poet:
After learning to write poems, a young poet
Has two other duties: to organize
A series of readings and to put out
A literary mag. You anthologize
Yourself along with a writer of note.
People come to hear Ms. Big lionized
And semi-incidentally you too.
This also applies to the mag you do.
Maggie, Rachel and I edited KOFF,
The main publication of the Consump-
Tive Poets League, first po-mag were men doffed
Their clothing – they were nude from chest to rump…

Here’s some more thoughts, works, poets and advice
(If advice is what you want from confused
Me). I’d say that my guidelines for hitchhik-
Ing are generally sound, but to use
My counsel on poetry might be a vice.
Better to listen to Kenneth Koch, whose
“Art of Poetry” I take for my own text.
Better to read lots of poetry. Next,
Work out what the poets are getting at
(What you can lift from them, in other words).
Don’t forget the young poets – read, cuz that
Is how to develop taste, without herds
Of antique notions stampeding you. Pat
Beliefs come when one knows before one learns.
Read a lot, write a lot, reject and embrace
In equal measure and in every case.
The book is in five sections, on her life in poetry, baseball, cars and the highway, the daily practice of her religious faith, and her home and marriage to Johnny Stanton. The portrait of a marriage is especially touching, an exploration of love sublime and quotidian. The verse is so supple, each section widens to encompass a life deeply felt and thoughtfully shared. We come to know a person and the spirit of poetry. There are few such intimate portraits in modern verse.
And did I mention a certain friskiness throughout? Her writings on baseball dwell rather more on the players’ butt cheeks than most sportswriters do. By players, I mean Yankees, and by Yankees, I mean Derek Jeter. After meeting Derek Jeter, she muses,
Let’s switch gears a bit here. I suppose you
Believe I’ve milked the Derek Jeter theme
For as much as it’s worth (or more). His slew
Of charms are largely physical – tall, slim,
Delicate neck, broad shoulders. But vacu-
Ous, alas, alas. Not stupid! But seem-
Ingly not curious about poetry.
Is he interesting? Alas, not remotely.
Ms. Nauen confesses to another fetish of the prairie girl: corn. Perhaps Demeter will require a bit more on that.
Elinor Nauen has written or edited several books, including American Guys, [ed: follow link at left for full text online] and Cars and Other Poems. Her latest, My Marriage A to Z: A big-city romance, will be out from Cinco Puntos press this Spring.
I wrote the following in Elinor’s workshop this past Fall. It has, I hope, some of her plain-spoken clarity:
Said Plain
I don’t know how
Else to structure
Spontaneous effusions
As love said plain.
Do you hear now?
Within long confusions,
Across our rupture,
I sing love’s refrain.
William Considine is the author of the poetic drama, The Women’s Mysteries, and the trilogy, Agamemnon, King of Cars; Electra; and Lincoln in Queens. He is a poet and a playwright, currently at work on a variety of multimedia projects, much of which can be found on his website, HERE.
Editors note: More poetry project love! Bill and I met in Matvei‘s workshop and he has been an avid supporter of Exit Strata. His wonderful sound/poem collaboration with Cosmo D, produced by Ambrose Bye, for he and Anne Waldman’s fall 2011 workshop (compiled on the terrific Festival of Rhizomes and Wraiths album), was featured recently on our blog. Learn more and listen here.

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