Dangerous to start discussing a book you haven’t entirely finished, especially if you plan to use it to make a point. But having read most of Anne Winters’s The Displaced of Capital in one rush last night, I feel even more strongly that experimental poetries, those concerned primarily with semantic play, are limiting themselves by what they leave out. One of the stand-out books by one of my peers last year was Jo Ann Wasserman’s The Escape, which courted controversy by allowing itself to be exhibitionistic. Just the premise—that it was about her mother’s death when she was 18—caused some poets I know to shut down.
It was about something?
It was about her mother?
It was about her mother’s death?
Getting past that hurdle, anyone who picked up the book then had to contend with self-mythologizing (sexy bad girl) that turned some people off (myself included) and some people on (Tony Towle reviewed it twice!). The point is, though, that she took a chance on writing a heartbreaking work, staggering genius arguable.
Thus Anne Winters. I’m not inclined to buy many books by University of Chicago poets, but I read “The Mill-Race” online, was blown away, got the book. Was blown away. Maybe I’m a sucker for the subject matter—the brutal economics of New York. Maybe, as with the Wasserman, I am too susceptible to the catharsis of tragic storytelling in whatever form (“An Immigrant Woman”). But if I’m attracted to her concerns I’m also attracted to her vocabulary: an engineering vocabulary, a vocabulary of infrastructure. It’s earthy, smithy, tough.
One could complain that she’s championed by Pinsky, complain that she’s too literal in some places, too ornate in others. I just don't want to hear that she’s not avant-garde. That’s a descriptor sought after by some of the most vapid books of our time, cf. Lisa Robertson’s The Weather—hiding its emptiness behind a quote from Arcades Project!—and, to bring it home for the movie-going friends, it’s the same reason In the Mood for Love is a hundred times greater than Chungking Express.