April 21, 2005

Richard Krueger, a new map [review]

Richard Krueger’s writing is like ice; it’s hard, cold,
multifaceted, at times necessarily ugly (those slug-like
creatures that inch over gutters as winter progresses), at
times wondrous. The poems are there and not there. They
catch on your tongue. Even sting. The cover of Krueger's
a new map of the bird perfectly signals that difficult
terrain--jittery, wintery, jagged.

There is no such thing as authentic poetry but Krueger
does not put on anyone else’s poetics. He is influenced by
Prince George and, so, Barry McKinnon but also, I would guess,
a host of other eclectic experimental poets. Krueger plays with
a lyrical deck of cards but plays that lyric with a variety of formal
tricks; he cheats, palms the ace, calls in the pot too soon, and
hums inappropriate tunes. The innovative forms Krueger adopts
displays a poetic maturity that comes out of the artistic drive for
to reinvent the world. These crystalline poems are chiseled finely
and they can cut, leave a reader bleeding, cursing. The poems
refuse to allow very much down-time; there are not many
places for security in subject-matter or tone. When there are
concrete images, they have to do with place, Prince George and
region, but only fleetingly—Krueger does not give in to pastoral
temptations--or language and communication models, which
don’t lend themselves much to image construction. The first
section from “the town south of salmon valley”
exemplifies Krueger’s contemplative narrative stance,
some of his thematic concerns, and his use of form to
accentuate and layer meaning:

the fence,un
-aware,cuts deep

into the field,di
-viding the textures

into slow circles,ha
-rsh squares.ideologies

into which faith is ke
-pt sealed,like churches

in towns,towns we pa
-ss every second or third

hour / / our

town repeats itself in ma
-ny indistinguishable locations. (22)

The ‘town south of salmon valley’ is Prince George which
is quite a bit larger than the hamlet of Salmon Valley;
Krueger likes to make perspective strange. Like an eccentric
postmodern poetic Icarus, Krueger enacts a kind of ironic
failure over and over again:

wiper blades
per blades wi
r blades wipe

there’s a permanent poem in my wi
ndshield,in that frame,but no matte
r how hard i strain,i can’t get wet.th
e rain never reaches the page. (43)

Probably Krueger’s most challenging piece is the long poem
the folding season.” Like most of his other work,
this poem consists of many diverse discourses and the
discourses fold into each other with a loud grinding sound.
Nothing is easy; the sections range from a catalogue of fatal
illness, aboriginal words for seasons, diagrams like fractals,
html code, reflexive references to the material poem, and
footnotes on language, animals, and myth. The folds erase
the page and all that is left is pure agency, the motion through:
“(every word is true.it is only their / meanings which are false)” (104).

One of the distinctive devices Krueger uses is his collapse of
the spaces around commas and periods. The effect of this is to compress
and force a recognition of signs irrespective of spatial cues. It sets
the easy visuals of text on a page off-kilter. Krueger is a twitchy, angular
fellow and his poems match his physicality eerily. Whenever I talk to him,
language always seems off-kilter. This is true for most great artists I
think—a necessary unease to the work, a falling away, or a sudden

navelmaybe we’ve got it all wrongmaybethe drumlin
is not a convex bump
on the face of the earthmaybeit’s concave

maybe we’re on the inside,looking out (63)

Krueger is a prolific chapbook maker--look for his newer productions
A_box_full_of_clouds and Aries. What makes these books
even more exciting is the fact that it is part of a much larger book that
Krueger is assembling. Its working title is The Monotony of Fatal
and all of Canada should be looking for that one. A new
map indeed.

1 comment:

Rob Budde said...

Email Richard at kruegerr@unbc.cafor more information or to order a copy.