Green is the Orator (New California Poetry, Volume 29)
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Green is the Orator follows on Sarah Gridley’s brilliant first collection, Weather Eye Open, in addressing the challenge of representing nature through language. Gridley’s deftly original syntax arises from direct experience of the natural world and from encounters with other texts, including the Egyptian “Book of the Dead” and the writings of Charles Darwin, Peter Mark Roget, William Morris, William James, and Henri Bergson. Gridley’s own idiom is compressed, original, and full of unexpected pleasures. This unusual book, at once austere and full of life, reflects a penetrating mind at work—one that is thinking through and re-presenting romantic and modernist traditions of nature.
living that is the poetry of the hour. INTRINSIC Only something that has no history can be defined is taken from Nietzsche. WORK Homage to William Morris, author of the utopian socialist novel News from Nowhere; designer of the Evenlode textile pattern; and all-around good thinker: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” SUMMER READING The atheist is George Eliot. The novel (from which I quote) is Daniel Deronda. Acknowledgments I am
horizontal, by Leslie Scalapino rimertown/an atlas, by Laura Walker Ours, by Cole Swensen Virgil and the Mountain Cat: Poems, by David Lau Sight Map: Poems, by Brian Teare Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy, by Keith Waldrop R’s Boat, by Lisa Robertson Green is the Orator, by Sarah Gridley Writing the Silences, by Richard O. Moore Designer Claudia Smelser Text and Display Garamond Premier Pro Compositor BookMatters, Berkeley Printer Maple-Vail Book Manufacturing Group
being most itself when stopping weirdly shy of itself, in the branching, loose-ends work of words, in the crusted rope that moors the boat whose stern paint the salt has unscripted out on the long and most contingent ocean where the salubrity of the water is being determined, where a squid is blacking in the margins, where dolphins arc and go below, where all our options are not the same— transparency—semitransparency— opacity — and all our options are not the same—healthfulness,
probably escaped me. Humphry Davy, a year older than Roget, and the Institute’s superintendent, found that inhalations effected desirable changes in his poetry. Breathing nitrous oxide while walking the hills at Clifton, near Bristol, he composed lines like these: Yet are my eyes with sparkling luster fill’d; Yet is my mouth replete with murmuring sound; Yet are my limbs with inward transports filled; And clad with newborn mightiness around. [contemporaries Coleridge and Southey are
crown. Meal of a moth, out for the moon. Meal of a fish and a thorn apple’s nectar. Meal of milk. Piecemeal. Moon to light the loophole in mammalian laws of gravity. Not hand or wing in the oak. Not home: home in. Acousmatic Not a concept, much less a faith— not quiet but coming forward from the dust, a white mare partially bone, primarily fast in the higher field. And was the sound of snow dissolving, glass being blown from lips of beginners? Where by love I mean a failing,