Friday, October 05, 2007

This notebook life

What Began Us by Melissa Buzzeo (Leon Works)

“The twisting into syntax and the pillaging of skin.”

This fierce line suggests the kind of pleasure one has reading Melissa Buzzeo’s What Began Us -- establishing as it does the connection between the limits of love and the limits of thought – of forms that are inscribed into our being. The approach is circuitous, and elaborate, yet it couldn’t be more direct.

“The exactitude and the ocean beside it.”

Much is suspended here and there is, in fact, suspense, as in a novel. "I can remember the structure of the door swollen past resistance." The lines are often clausal and yet they assert with the power of complete thoughts. "Battered beyond all frame." And there is a Spicer feel which has something to do with the combined power of honesty, and seduction.

“And how we come together for this notebook life. For this one moment of notebook life. The pages glued together, in some, the leaves eradicated. The articles on hold and fire. The photographs held in place in absence. You who are leaves, you who are left, we come together.”

The work takes its negative critique of the predictable, expected, or assumed in relationships, reading, writing and life in general very seriously. There is a Djuna Barnes intensity to the Buzzeo’s joy in language and the demands she places on lover and reader.

“As you are washed in curvature in stand alone in sheeted nightgown unsaid. At the very base. Tilted. Below story on top of story. To come near to this portrait and to look away. This is what we bother to keep this is what we bother to say. Beside a drawer. Drawer that might displace radium. A grid that is left out. A girl that is washed in other people’s water.”

Buzzeo’s relentless examination of the subject matter she chooses (or which choses her) pervades the text. Nothing is ever enough.

“Of line renounced of line rejoined.”

Ultimately the subject is love and the mode is lyric and yet this is emphatically not epiphanic-little-story verse. Instead a Steinian analysis of bliss occurs that convinces, frets, collects, threatens and unsettles – but softly.

“The salt the rise the salt the taste the refusal to connect from this head on the table to this salt alone. My picture small on this table alone. This wet this early this small collaboration by degree.”

Laura Moriarty


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