November 30, 2008

Michael Davidson

Michael Davidson [USA]

Born in Oakland, California on December 18, 1944, Michael Davidson attended San Francisco State University and continued his graduate degrees at The State University of New York at Buffalo. He is currently Professor of English at the University of California, San Diego in La Jolla.

Davidson began publishing poetry in 1972 with Exchanges and continued throughout the 1970s with three further titles: Two Views of Pears, The Mutabilities, and Summer Letters. In the 1980s he published four new books of poetry, including Discovering Motion, The Prose of Fact, The Landing of Rochambeau and Analogy of the Ion. He also published critical studies such as The San Francisco Renaissance: Poetics and Community at Mid-Century and, more recently, Ghostlier Demarcations: Modern Poetry and the Material Word (University of California Press, 1997) and Guys Like Us: Citing Masculinity in Cold War Poetics (University of Chicago Press, 2003). He is the editor of The New Collected Poems of George Oppen.
     More recently, he published On the Outskirts of Form: Practicing Cultural Practices (Wesleyan University Press) and Concerto for the Left Hand and the Defamiliar Body (University of Michigan Press).

     A trip to the then Soviet Union in the late 1980s resulted in a book of prose (written with Lyn Hejinian, Barrett Watten, and Ron Silliman). Since that time he has also published three further collections of poetry.


Exchanges (Los Angeles: Prose and Verses Press, 1972); Two Views of Pears (Berkeley: San Dollar, 1973); The Mutabilities (Berkeley: San Dollar, 1976); Summer Letters (Los Angeles: Black Sparrow, 1977); Grill Work (Toronto: Mansfield Book Mart, 1979); Discovering Motion (Berkeley: Little Dinosaur, 1980); The Prose of Fact (Berkeley: The figures, 1981); The Landing of Rochambeau (Providence, Rhode Island: Burning Deck, 1985); Analogy of the Ion (Great Barrington, Massachusetts: The Figures, 1988); Post Hoc (Bolinas, California: Avenue B, 1990); The Arcades (Oakland, California: O Books, 2002); Bleed Through: New and Selected Poems (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2013)

Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in English

The Crawl

I’m not quite Larry
but neither am I Barry,
maybe if we moved the vertical
closer to the border
we could sit down around
a table and talk this out, sure
some folks like distinctions but heck
the sky’s blue
we’re big you’re not quite
brown or not enough, so
as the crawl says
he’s not his father
which is why the vertical
loves a map
where the kids are small
and there’s not much land
between here and there,
when the weather’s clear
we can move across it
like Alexander in a Hummer
and kick up some sand.

I placed our car just outside of Winnemucca
actually, he bolted
having been dragged back and forth
across the desert for three years
in a yellow Volkswagen,
he’d had it, two silver eyes
under a Winnebago at 3:00 a.m.
was the last we saw of him,
besides, the desert needs stray cats
for target practice,
we were heading west
almost perpetually, the East
is made of dust and rust,
everyone know this,
he’s probably an exhibit in Mrs. Border’s
6th grade class, “Fossil Cat”
from the fertile crescent,
we won’t tell her
what exhibits are for and why a gun
comes with the cage,
I’m glad he’s free of us
our youth and our belief
is a perfect highway
we’re not even us anymore
like nothing else in Winnemucca.

What’s above the crawl
on Tuesday?
Bush hugs sergeant
Rumsfield chats w/McNamara
Brzenzinski and Carlucci give advice,
displaced Kurdish girl
“pulls laundry off a line”
the arbitrary nature of the sign
is when the thing seen
fails to respond to an appeal
launched by the heat seeking word
and searches in sand storm
for the body whose blood
can signify the state or God
and guarantee this crawl
equals a family in black
passing bodies on the road
“hit by shrapnel” it says,
this way the war
can be a perfect tape
of how we come out
when the wind dies.

I know what you’re thinking
he’s given up on big projects
and settled for the modular,
easy to install and includes
all these neat links,
coupons in the Sudany edition,
the aesthetic? pathetic!
we’re moving back to one
and the many, Fudd and Bugs,
this new God in mufti
makes sense when men blend
into sand and sand
clogs the rotors, how
to ascend, fingering
for the French Suites,
half price Goya,
all these granted we take for
freedoms, the line was good
for the age of Auden,
if it returns as farce
it looks like Summer,
secure the perimeter
and elect a committee,
if we back into a mirror
the room we leave behind
will never forget us.

I’m glad I have this opportunity to express
bomb dust vacant their it public heart
that so proudly (we got off before the train
stopped) and before long
I stop by the blank fence
gaze at a finch
(the gazing is good next to the sump)
that I compare to my grandfather
who resembles a fence
the crowd at the station
would recognize (at this point
salmon sunset clouds, more clouds
maybe Debussy) blood
of a hero, and I’m not a hero,
I just look good in green,
a simple hunter stalks a buck
a gun kills a doe, we do this
for the music
that ricochets off canyon walls,
later I write it down
click on location
and add password,
children caught in crossfire
illustrate my me, my eye
looking out improved by a tree.

Robust response I feel secure,
not know how killed or many,
one reported large or down,
like nothing since,
light then night then light
or many lights no cars one truck,
many shelters, much smoke,
first the phones went dead
aide keeps informed us
you, we, your people
on the ground, on the air
report sketchy but robust force,
maybe dawn can be verified
we’ll check, as for fires
look up
the sun is shining.

I’m writing this in the west
men carrying TV's and horses
K-mart jiffy Lube
are men real?
the crawl secures image
with occasional flashes,
I’m writing this in the Best
Western where the towel
and shampoo, we
leave the lights on
all night, read the guide
to the sights,
who pays who learns how water
moves through a city
I’m writing in the flesh
burned out car, tickets
floating in a blue glow
in a dark window,
are we occupied
are we free to go home?

The world and the work
the one the bank brought back
and the one the bank forgot
the stain in the ditch where
the world drinks and the work
that lives on the edge of the ditch
that the bank brings back
the face and other face
of the news made face
the work that makes them men
so they can talk, appear
to talk and give a face
to the men that the bank
retains and then talk
and this
is this link, the seam
in the scape where no one lives
but works and the stuff
goes there and then goes there
and they transfer the stuff
and it's on the sheet
and on the phone
someone needs the sheet
the scape of the stuff
and then
it goes blank, it’s in the scope
and so they leave
and the click you hear
is them locking up,
go home
don't buy.

Reprinted from War and Peace, no. 2 (2005). Copyright ©2005 by Michael Davidson.

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