Sunday, December 20, 2009

Episode 454: Too Fragmented For Its Own Good

Re-reading Lucy Tan's collection, 108 Fragments..., has given me another idea for the form my poetry portfolio this year or my personal writing project next year could take. Notwithstanding this fact, it is still an appalling piece of work. Granted, the first poem already makes no excuses for itself:

These are lines
to bait your attention,
Perhaps even affection.
No lyrical poetry,
no grandoise prose,
pedestrian verse
or even plain doggerel.
Just a kaleidescope
of words
to freeze
one moment,
one emotion
in one life,
not always
on a page.

To me, this first poem sums up everything that's right and wrong about the collection. Let's start with the lazy, or shall we say, non-existent editing. In poetry, where every word should count, she manages to misspell two, and to no apparent artistic effect. Lady, get a dictionary already. This happens elsewhere in the collection. She forgets the acute accent in Estée Lauder, but remembers the diaeresis in Häagen-Dazs (although she forgets the hypen). It's not that I want to be picky, but greater consistency would have been nice. It's almost as if the collection had been written by one of the nouveaux riches, pretentious, but with traces of value in it nevertheless. For there are moments of cleverness in 108 Fragments..., like the internal rhyme that crops up so frequently, or some of the images that are haiku-like in their compactness. Trouble is, many of these free verse poems (for they are implicitly marked as such by two of the poems within the collection) would have worked far better as terse aphorisms, rather than being broken up pointlessly across several lines. The final thing that irked me about the collection was the insistence in this opening poem, 'one moment, / one emotion / in one life, / not always / mine, / on a page.' Yes, I get it. You're writing poems about lovers and missed connections and middle-aged women and younger men and you're terrified that your readers are going to read each poem autobiographically. So you deny it in the opening, you deny it on the first printed page [.....(figments?) / of lives / lived / (mostly) / vicariously], but honestly, do you think your readers are that dumb as to automatically assume every poem is coming from a fragment of your own life? I think I'm getting a bit too snarky here, but it just irritates me, this insecurity.

No comments: