Cover image for Troubled lovers in history : a sequence of poems
Title:
Troubled lovers in history : a sequence of poems
Author:
Goldbarth, Albert.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Columbus : Ohio State University Press, [1999]

©1999
Physical Description:
113 pages ; 24 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780814208137

9780814250150
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library PS3557.O354 T76 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Summary

Author Notes

Born in Chicago and educated at the University of Illinois and University of Iowa, Goldbarth has taught at various schools, including the University of Texas. Prolific and wide-ranging in content, Goldbarth writes against the grain of much contemporary poetry, which aims to strip language to its barest essentials. His verse, by contrast, is baroque, florid, even---as his critics would have it---cluttered. The effect of his virtuoso verbal performance is to suggest how intensely is the human need for explanation and connection with the vast storehouse of culture within which we live. In his recent works, Goldbarth has pursued his theory that life is a Moebius strip, continually repeating itself, with no discernible beginning or end.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Born in Chicago and educated at the University of Illinois and University of Iowa, Goldbarth has taught at various schools, including the University of Texas. Prolific and wide-ranging in content, Goldbarth writes against the grain of much contemporary poetry, which aims to strip language to its barest essentials. His verse, by contrast, is baroque, florid, even---as his critics would have it---cluttered. The effect of his virtuoso verbal performance is to suggest how intensely is the human need for explanation and connection with the vast storehouse of culture within which we live. In his recent works, Goldbarth has pursued his theory that life is a Moebius strip, continually repeating itself, with no discernible beginning or end.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 5

Booklist Review

There should be a special place in the sweet hereafter for poets who make us laugh. Goldbarth is as funny and disarming as he is imaginative and prolific, and his newest collection is liberally spiked with unexpected and amusing juxtapositions. Relationships occupy center stage, particularly when they're at their worst, but even though he writes about his own marriage and those of his parents and his sister and her ill husband, Goldbarth is contemplating visions of more metaphysical liaisons. A plunderer of books and a time traveler, he picks up all sorts of companions, from Alexandra David-Neel to Claude Monet. He tunes in to Dickens kvetching about the filth of an American canal boat, and an otherwise ordinary Swiss woman who, during seances, recounts sojourns on Mars in fluent Martian. Goldbarth is intrigued by the attraction of opposites and loves the simultaneity of events, thoughts, and memories. He writes whimsically of serious things, seriously of silliness, and always succeeds in releasing the joy and heat inherent in language and life. (Reviewed March 15, 1999)0814208134Donna Seaman


Library Journal Review

Prolific poet Goldbarth (Adventures in Ancient Egypt, LJ 12/96; Beyond, Godine, 1998) presents an eccentric and pleasing cycle of poems about the relationships between lovers and between parent and child. Goldbarth's sensibility is one of the few that deserves to be called cinematic: he works like an avant-garde filmmaker, with the verbal-aesthetic equivalents of jump-cut editing and the hand-held camera. Amusing wherever they are not startling, Goldbarth's superbly intelligent poems change directions at top speed: "There's an airplane in the skies, from somewhere/ out of poetic eternitime, it hides/ between the couplets...and deposits/ a microsurveillance device in one of those alpenroses/ you read about. Yes you/ Äyou're being watched." Goldbarth is a comic and compelling poet. Recommended for all poetry collections.ÄGraham Christian, Andover-Harvard Theological Lib., Cambridge, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Booklist Review

There should be a special place in the sweet hereafter for poets who make us laugh. Goldbarth is as funny and disarming as he is imaginative and prolific, and his newest collection is liberally spiked with unexpected and amusing juxtapositions. Relationships occupy center stage, particularly when they're at their worst, but even though he writes about his own marriage and those of his parents and his sister and her ill husband, Goldbarth is contemplating visions of more metaphysical liaisons. A plunderer of books and a time traveler, he picks up all sorts of companions, from Alexandra David-Neel to Claude Monet. He tunes in to Dickens kvetching about the filth of an American canal boat, and an otherwise ordinary Swiss woman who, during seances, recounts sojourns on Mars in fluent Martian. Goldbarth is intrigued by the attraction of opposites and loves the simultaneity of events, thoughts, and memories. He writes whimsically of serious things, seriously of silliness, and always succeeds in releasing the joy and heat inherent in language and life. (Reviewed March 15, 1999)0814208134Donna Seaman


Publisher's Weekly Review

Goldbarth's wackily polymathic exuberance now confronts his scariest foes yet: human separateness, divorce, the parts of the psyche that split couples up. These poems attend to the unknowable variousness of other people's needs: "out of what smoldering crevice/ in our brainstems do we crawl to bear/ such furred or scaled lumps to one another?" Most are two- to 10-page verse-essays, juxtaposing science-fact, historical anecdote and current (often apparently autobiographical) scenes. One compares Victorian travelers "Ambling casually across the leechy muckholes/ of this scary planet" to a brother-in-law's batttle with MS. Elsewhere X-ray analysis of paintings suggests "the text/ in the text of the wedding"Äthe bride and groom who said yes and meant "no, and no." Other sequences guest-star a storytelling Jewish grandmother, "someone dressed like `Burger Bear,'" Marco Polo, Liquid Dan the Living Geyser, Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner, "Dr. Meat," Fernand Braudel and Pliny the Elder. Goldbarth's sentences zip onwards over their linebreaks, desperate to include each strange way of coping he can uncover. (Fans of brainy novelists like Richard Powers or David Foster Wallace might love Goldbarth even if they don't read much poetry.) Goldbarth (who snagged the National Book Critics Circle award for 1991's Heaven and Earth) wants to use his mountains of facts, his piles of odd words, to unearth old virtues: his drive toward redemption, pathos and comedy tugs heroically against the drag of his largely sad material. It's hard to read these poems without hoping for, even rooting for, the poet's own marriage. They bear a frightened sadness, and a depth, new to Goldbarth's work: they're also an energetic and winning as ever. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Prolific poet Goldbarth (Adventures in Ancient Egypt, LJ 12/96; Beyond, Godine, 1998) presents an eccentric and pleasing cycle of poems about the relationships between lovers and between parent and child. Goldbarth's sensibility is one of the few that deserves to be called cinematic: he works like an avant-garde filmmaker, with the verbal-aesthetic equivalents of jump-cut editing and the hand-held camera. Amusing wherever they are not startling, Goldbarth's superbly intelligent poems change directions at top speed: "There's an airplane in the skies, from somewhere/ out of poetic eternitime, it hides/ between the couplets...and deposits/ a microsurveillance device in one of those alpenroses/ you read about. Yes you/ Äyou're being watched." Goldbarth is a comic and compelling poet. Recommended for all poetry collections.ÄGraham Christian, Andover-Harvard Theological Lib., Cambridge, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One     Travel Notes     introductory section This sad first line presents somebody sitting at the window, in her seventh year of marriage, in a fall of early morning light so new--so yet untouched by any texture-- it's incapable of artifice: everything shows. And so her disappointments and frailties are obvious in this introductory section --in the way her hopes of seven years ago are on display, are an unmediated beaming, in the photograph she keeps on the credenza ledge. And by the space between these two far faces we can measure a journey, something like the passage that Monet provides his haystacks. --Not in miles; but in deepness over time. --And not in shoeleather, no; but hour by hour, sun by cloud, in the ripening weight of experience.     1. "A new day's march, the tins of biscuit gone last night to thieves. So be it. We wade through our fatigue as if it were only another infested stream to cross ..."                             Wait: Did he say only? "Oh, that. That's merely Bloodsucker Creek." "That's just Deathrattle Canyon." Ambling casually across the leechy muckholes of this scary planet, humming Rule Britannia.... "To his credit, he uttered no word of regret." The greatest travelers never kvetch. For them, the application of potentially fatal Saharan heat to flesh is--"vigorating," one called it. How can you be something so sublime, so monumentally sublime, as "stoic," if needles of ice won't work their way into your feet, if swarms of stinger-gnats won't boil up out of the jungle brush as thickly as spewed-up gruel? "This proved a tonic, after our days of restful confinement." Adversity burnishes them to perfection. So: in 1887, thirst reduces the robust party of British explorer Sir Francis Younghusband to the extremity of lapping the blood of a freshly beheaded rooster, then of a throat-slit sheep ("immediately it coagulated into a cake"), and finally "Islam and Yoldi collected camel's urine, mixed it with sugar and vinegar, held their noses, and drank." By night they struggle ahead. By day they bury one another up to the gizzard in sand, for the feeble extra degrees of its cool. Eventually the thirst "did not torment us, as it had done ... for the mouth-cavity had become as dry as the outside skin, and the craving was dulled."                              And what is Younghusband's summary? "It is a curious fact, but when real difficulties seem to be closing around, one's spirits rise ... difficulties seem only to make you more and more cheery." Somewhere else, concomitantly, an arctic adventurer rolls the rotted soles off his feet as if peeling a tangerine. "There was, of course, some initial discomfort as we kept on toward our goal." Of course . Of such intrepid mettle are the High Lords and Ladies of Wanderlust.                                              But * * * I prefer the more roundedly human touch of a grandiose sniveler, who knows an inconvenience when he sees one, and vituperates it accordingly. Thomas Manning is a nineteenth-century master of this arch effect. "Turning my head back towards the west, I had a noble view of a set of snowy mountains collected into focus, empurpled with the evening sun.... I heartily wished I might never see them again." His room in Phari-dzong. on the road to Lhasa, is "low, long, dark, narrow, windowless, full of smoke. Dirt, dirt, grease. Misery." Simply: "I find going uphill does not agree with me."                          Or Dickens, on his first night in a canal boat through the Alleghenies: "I found suspended on either side of the cabin, three long tiers of hanging book-shelves, designed apparently for volumes of the small octavo size. Looking with greater attention, I descried on each shelf a sort of microscopic sheet and blanket; and then I began dimly to comprehend that the passengers were the library, and that they were to be arranged, edge-wise, on these shelves, till morning." Of tobacco juice and its being so freely spat, and of the various "zephyr whisperings" that emanate their richness from the other thirty beds, he rises to rhetoric impassioned and ornate enough to otherwise be chronicling the battle of Masada or our touchdown on the moon. Well what does Dickens expect? "Have got a diarrhoea," Byron says in one of his earlier letters, "and bites from the mosquitoes. But what of that? Comfort must not be expected by folks that go a pleasuring."     2. When his eyes can focus, my brother-in-law is lost in reading a book about the European mapping of Australia --sandstorms; sunsets like a smear of iodine dye; bone-jangling thunderstorms; betrayals. When his eyes can focus....                                 Sometimes, though, the M.S. won't allow that small coherence; much less walking. Then a day is a matter of thought and dream; and of the half-state progeny of thought and dream; and there are places wholly independent of geography and time, to which we'll spirit ourselves. And surely if a man can exit his skull without anywhere shattering it, the roof of a house on Nathan Road in Edgemoor, Illinois, is no impediment, nor the sunlit, swaddling atmosphere of Earth. * * * "'On what am I walking?' she asks. And the table replies: 'On a world--Mars.'" This is the seance of late November 1894, and the "mediumistic astral peregrinations" of Miss Élise-Catherine Müller of Martigny, Switzerland, (named Hélène in the literature) begin here, and will last five years. Five years of intricate trances, and their on-the-scene reports from that neighboring planet. Mitchma mitchmon mimini tchouainem mimatchenig masichinof mezavi tatelki abresinad navette naven navette mitchiichenid naken chinoutfiche:"Hélène herself will speak Martian." In the company of friends as well as under the scrupulous scrutiny of psychologist Théodore Flourney, this seemingly ordinary middle-class silk-shop salesperson undertakes the episodes of what becomes a startling psychic odyssey in the annals of "disincarnate travel" (or, I would also argue, of travel literature of any kind). Look, the sky is all red ... a rose-coloured fog.... Quick, please, give me paper! Of her spoken and written Martianese: "It is, indeed, a language and not a simple jargon or gibberish of vocal noises produced at the hazard of the moment without any stability."     From out of the fog--he is riding in a miza,     a "moving house" without wheels or horses-- "It cannot be denied the following characteristics--First: It is a harmony of clearly articulated sounds, grouped so as to form words. Secondly:"     --with a beast, a "pet," with the "head of a cabbage"     and one great eye in the middle, like a peacock feather     that moves on paws-- "These words when pronounced express definite ideas. Thirdly, and finally:"     and aquatic creatures, they look tike giant snails     --meanwhile, Astané has a grotto for meditation     carved out of the mountainside "Connection of the words with the ideas is continuous; or, to put it differently, the signification of the Martian terms is permanent and is maintained from one end to the other of the texts which have been collected in the course of now three years."     --and a hall of infants set on yellow moss;     and there are animals, almost hairless,     and with the large soft eyes of seals--and these     have tubes attached to their udders by the men,     and these infants are fed on the milk "It is the complete fabrication of all of the parts of a new language."     --and I was there. one red fantastic corpuscle at the center of her brain, one red amazing impervious corpuscle, three inches in;                  three zillion light years * * * My sister returns from her shit job; phonecalldemeaning deadlinedemeaning teleconferencedemeaning shit pay. The kids the dog the evening meal the laundry the bills the pills to pick up at Drug Rite, and Dannie-- pecktothecheek --he'll rise now from a day of M.S. reverie and greet her. "He tries to help around, but--" (shrug). My sister isn't the woman I've invented for the introductory section, she of the quiet disappointments, who speaks for so many of us. And maybe my sister here is only "my sister"--one more fiction; this isn't meant to be autobiography. Still, I understand what she's thinking tonight as she stares in the mirror and dabs the day's mascara with her cleansing pad: this isn't the life she'd planned on having (that commonest of American misgivings). It may be strengthened by the invisible struts of love in any number of viable ways, and yet ... this isn't where she thought she'd arrive. My brother-in-law on the living-room sofa. My brother-in-law how many mental-states-of-himself removed from the living-room sofa? how many alternate Dannies, alternate chronologies and galaxies, does he get to explore in exchange for being unable to press the gas and brake in the Honda? Question: how far could you fall if you fell like energy into a microchip? And how far has my sister come to stand at this bathroom mirror in its unconcealing light? There is no standard unit of measurement for this, but I think / she looks, and looks / the face can be an odometer.     3. And he will describe for you these numerous wonders, of Lands and divers Peoples, and of heathenish Customs, also of the Creatures of these places. --Marco Polo. Ah, yes: "... a hidden city as profligately topped with golden domes as a bakery table might be with dollops of eclair cream." "... an ascension of mist that begins at the foot of the waterfall, so vast it seems as if an entire town were created of vapor." / numerous wonders / It's a craving for this gawk-response in the face of the sheerly amazing, it's this goosebumps of the retina, of the breath, that kickstarts most of us out of our sedimentary slew and sends us posing for those Ms. (or Mr.) Zombie passport photos. Surely we want to think of wonder as Parnassuslike in scale-- a parade before the Empress of a thousand temple dancers on a thousand temple elephants--but just as surely it can be a single life in size; on the lonely tableland of northern Tibet, explorer Alexandra David-Neel sees a distant moving dot: a lung-gore-pa , a lama whose mystic way is "wonderful endurance," is a "tramping ... without stopping during several successive days and nights" across that normally empty limitlessness. The lama (in a trance; that is, "with the god in him") approaches, closer; she writes, "The man did not run. He seemed to lift himself from the ground, proceeding by leaps with the elasticity of a ball. The right hand held a phurba (magic dagger) and moved slightly at each step as if leaning on a stick, just as though the phurba , whose pointed extremity was far above the ground, had touched it and were actually a support." At which description, a wild frisson of awe shoots through me. --Not the reigning sensibility                                        in the letters of Thomas Gray. In 1739 he travels from Great Britain to the Continent: "There are Trees, & Houses just as in England." And writes of himself, laconically, "Goes into the Country to Rheims in Champagne. Stays there 3 Months, what he did there (he must beg the reader's pardon, but) he has really forgot."                        Some do best rooted. (Gray, for instance, back again in London, gives posterity his grandly visioned, vastly moralizing Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard --"The paths of glory lead but to the grave," etc.). Dickinson made a circuit of Einstein's universe every day in her garden in Amherst. And this barnacle on a wheelchair, its fourth-dimensional mind out touring post-Einsteinian hyperspace ...?--is Stephen Hawking, stationary lama of the millennium. His travel is into the endless viridian-manganese sea of phosphenes in the eye, and then through it, and into the subumbilicus of Everything and Nothing, of the proto-breath of the proto-word of the cosmic Open Sesame.                            That's a looooong way * * * from the level at which the contrapuntal rhythm of things for most of us gets played out. In this city this morning, the dawn sun glints pristinely off the clean lines of a building where the blueprints of the cyberzip electrotechno future are created out of silicon and wish. And in the shadow of this building, not a two-block walk away, the Middle Ages is finishing one more piss-pants night. You can tell by the burnt cat on the hood of a truck, and by the zonked-out teenie hooker sweetly singing glory hallelujah through her caked puke, you can tell by the ten billion eyes of a plague as it waits for its chance on a needletip, and by these guys who are whipping each other drunkenly with ripped-out car antennas, and by the stabs of love, and by the love of stabbing, you can tell that as the supersonic cruiser slips across the sky, it passes for a heartbeat blur above the year 1000, where we still live, in an everpast. grafitto in the courthouse john: goin nowhere fast Copyright (c) 1999 The Ohio State University. All rights reserved.

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