Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Vowel Movements

Almost thirty years before the publication of Eunoia, Canadian expat poet Daryl Hine wrote a poem called "Vowel Movements" (and you thought this was Carmine Starnino's pun!), consisting of 12 12-line stanzas, each dominated by a single vowel sound, and a thirteenth stanza, taking a line from each of the previous twelve. That poem has resurfaced in Hine's new volume of Recollected Poems, now hanging by the handle "Yucatan." (I guess taste did turn away her face...) It makes for strange music and occasionally strong sense, and it's a bravura performance. Christian Bok's neurotic magnum opus, it should be noted, is composed in prose. Hine's is in metrical verse, and tho, yes, "monotony is the drawback to [his] song," it at least does not go on so long as Bok's book does--nor is it so dogmatic in its strictures.

It's funny. Hine has been vilified by Ron Silliman and others as the very worst kind of reactionary conservative "School-of-Quietude poet," yet here he is doing something--way earlier--that one typically associates with a latter-day avatar of the avant-garde. Hey, just maybe these labels are reductive, eh?

I've had a bash at reading this tongue-twisting devil. It's a very flawed reading, I'm afraid, but the best I could do with several takes and a bit of editorial cutting and splicing of tracks. You can hear it here.