SCENE: EXT. DAY. HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD, 2002
SFX: TRAFFIC, OFF
Moore: [HAILING FROM ACROSS THE STREET]
Gray: [HURRIEDLY CROSSING]
Moore: Hey, easy there Spuddy — I haven’t seen you in anything since "The Killing Fields." You’re looking older and wiser, though, as usual. What do you have there?
Gray: In my hand or in my breast pocket?
Gray: Or balanced on my head?
Gray: I have poems, poems, poems, Dem — two of the six books available from Flood Editions: Pam Rehm’s Gone to Earth, and Ronald Johnson’s Shrubberies. These were published in 2001.
Moore: And in your breast pocket — those are other Flood books?
Gray: Yes, in a sense. Philip Jenks’ On the Cave You Live In (38 poems), and Tom Pickard’s new and selected Hole in the Wall (83 poems). These came out in January, 2002.
Moore: "In a sense"?
Gray: They could be fakes. I was just standing here realizing that I have no way of verifying their authenticity.
Moore: Authenticity is a reification, Spalding. The real question is whether or not they are textually legitimate. Which reminds me, have you read that Ken Ruthven book, Faking Literature?
Gray: Well, of course I've heard about it, Demi, but no, I haven't caught up with the actual text yet... why?
Moore: The bibliography alone would knock your socks off. There’s a detailed review by Patrick Herron in a recent issue of Jacket magazine... the "Ern Malley" issue, for goodness sake, all about hoax poetry. But tell me, why would anyone "fake" a Flood Edition?
Moore: Tom Pickard!
Gray: Yeah, and then there’s Philip Jenks — crazy spittoon Southern poet. Dark, biblical, comical, languagy. "Hardly any of me is solid any more, I mean I buy / things every day." Goodness, listen to how this continues:
Moore: And the Rehm?
Gray: Eh. Jury’s out.
Gray: I don’t want to shortchange this book. It seems vital, but it also seems (in spots) to be talking down to the reader. It seems to come from a pulpit. But perhaps that’s part of its conceit. Here is the beginning of the title poem:
Moore: I dunno, Spalding, that sounds pretty tight to me. The preacherliness definitely seems part of the conceit, and an effective part. These are the words of a postmodern didact. Someone who’s tired of the politics, the show.
Gray: As I said, jury’s out.
Moore: Okay — balanced on your head?
Gray: Ah, what else but more titles from Flood: Paul Hoover’s amazing Winter (Mirror) and Fanny Howe’s collection of short fictions entitled Economics. These two are forthcoming.
Moore: I’ve heard of these authors. How did you find the Howe?
Gray: Hah. "Howe" else? SPD. No seriously —
Moore: How about the work contained therein?
Gray: Wow, hmm.
Moore: Oh God, you kidder. Are you damning this book with faint praise?
Gray: Let me be completely straight with you, Dem. However much I play — and Lord knows I love to have fun with books — Fanny Howe has something here. Despite her fiction’s apparent straightforwardness, its quiet realism, there is much afoot here in terms of political concerns, and Howe puts something of herself on the line. Let me make a quick comparison — remember that book of short stories Richard Ford came out with several years ago? At times brilliant, what with Ford’s talent, but overall I thought it was an exercise in patrician idleness — a thing was said, but there was nothing to say. By sharp contrast, here is the Howe book: nine stories with an almost Gorkyian sense of plainness and urgency.
Moore: And the Hoover — "amazing"?
Gray: Oh the Hoover. You have to buy it. It really brings new life to the whole floating couplet form so favored by Nicholas Christopher and the other New Yorker poets of the mid nineties. It also breathes new life into the blippy tercet. Hoover works in these modes naturally. I was really genuinely surprised by the elegance here.
Moore: Comparing it to Christopher, though — isn’t that harsh?
Gray: Depends on which Christopher. A distinction can be made. Some of that old New Yorker shit used to remind me of canned Neruda meets Sharon Olds or what have you, I agree; some of it, in fact, literally was Sharon Olds. But at his best, Nick Christopher made lines like shards of glass, in stimulating designs. Wreaths of colorful smoke. He had a Merwin thing going, a real flying-dolphin urbanity that younger poets would do well to continue to explore. The Hoover is even better than mid-nineties Christopher, though.
SFX: LOUD PASSING TRUCK
Gray: You know I’m a sucker for great small presses. I can’t figure out how they do it. FSG loses money on nine out of ten books, and these Floods look and feel a lot like FSGs. Like new Ashbery paperbacks or something. Very sexy indeed.
Moore: Look, I have an audition —
Gray: Demi, wait, I’ve been meaning to call you...
Moore: No, but I’m married. Wait.
Gray: I figured you’d be the expert on that.
Moore: Being a celebrity is confusing, Spud. But no, I don’t want to date you, if that’s what you’re getting at. I’m a mom now, very busy. Lot of auditions.
Gray: Okay I guess I’ll keep renting "About Last Night"! Hey, this has been fun. Give my regards to the others.
Moore: [WALKING AWAY]
FADE TO BLACK
Jacket 18 — August 2002
This material is copyright © Aaron Belz
and Jacket magazine 2002