Friday, 21 March 2014

Artistic Daring

Brian Palmu celebrates Mary Dalton's book of centos, Hooking, as "a surprising document in artistic daring":
In Hooking, Dalton ups the ante—she has taken the Oulipian route of restriction. In each of her centos, every line comes from the same numbered line in the original poem. For example, “Gauze” is composed of twenty-seven lines from twenty-seven poems from twenty-seven poets, and each line is the fourth from those poems. This brings up the obvious question. Why? Wouldn’t eliminating this restriction free up many more possibilities for better linkages? Perhaps, but it’s also possible that by forcing oneself to hunt far and deep, the cento maker can eventually steal a better line than a quicker perusal would permit. 
Fraser Sutherland finds a great deal to like as well:
The lines are so smoothly blended that even a famous one like Ezra Pound’s “The ant’s a centaur in his dragon world” doesn’t seem extraneous or intrusive. They are almost exclusively of the twentieth century; we are mercifully spared Shakespeare. So smoothly and aptly does she quote it’s as if she could pluck Edgar Guest’s “It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house t’make it home” and incorpo- rate it coherently and cohesively. Given such varied sources, it’s remarkable how natural, connected, and consistent, though not monotonous, the lines are in mood and treatment—and notable how often their rhythms approximate her own work.

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