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The Cloud Corporation (Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award) Paperback – September 21, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Donnelly's formally rigorous and ambitious, not to mention highly anticipated, second book follows up on the many projects of his debut, Twenty-Seven Props for a Production of Ein Liebenzeit, and extends his powers in poems that encompass a wider emotional range. Still here are the gorgeous linguistic surfaces, but also glimpses of a new intimacy: "when I fell you fell beside me and the concrete refused to apologize." Throughout is a kind of dark wordplay--"Demonstrate to yourself a resistance to feeling/ unqualified despair by attempting something like/ perfect despair embellished with hand gestures"--that pokes fun at language while remembering how dangerous words truly are. Procedural poems, such as one that repurposes language from the Patriot Act ("New obstacles shall be established by the Chairman of Failure./ Authorized language drones shall implement and expand/ written combat") portray the dark underbelly of official rhetoric. A pair of beautiful and frustrated long poems introduce a mind agoraphobicly trapped in its vast vocabulary: "the adverb here refers to my person/ and all its outskirts." These poems are a strange and powerful force to be reckoned with.
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WINNER OF THE 2012 KINGSLEY TUFTS POETRY AWARD
"The Cloud Corporation...is the epitome of Our Moment." --David Orr, Poetry
"An outstanding collection by a modern American master...Donnelly is a poet everyone should read." --David Weheatley, The Guardian
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Too much of modern poets burrow into their own souls and too few look outward toward the clouds and back toward earth, at what we, the broader we, are, have become. Timothy Donnelly has done it, and his poetry reminds me a bit of the great Ann Winters in "The Displaced of Capital." The greatest poets, I suppose, look outward and inward at the same time.
I'm not sure that each poem in this volume equally succeeds; but experimentation that leads to occasional disappointment is far superior to playing old familiar songs again and again.
You might expect some of these poems if J.K. Rowling had binged on ultra-modern reading. It is an odd effect, not completely bad, but not completely good.
I recognize that this text is recognized as the creme-d-le-creme of modern poetry. It DOES deserve that title, to some degree.
But I found these poems unsatisfying. Somehow too guilt-laden.
I hold myself to a high standard, and the inventiveness of some of these poems is likely to impress almost anyone.
The text includes most notably the Ship in the Night Poem, and the Thousand Scabs of Parchment poem, both famous.
I am serious as a Roebuck about this. Of course, Santa doesn't really exist, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was a wholly-owned and copyrighted song designed to torment Rudolph Hess, one of the "Best Nazis EVER!", the inference of course being that Hess was a drunkard at least as bad as was John Berryman, racist version, as Berryman--who in their correct mind does not know this?--sent-up an alter-ego in blackface named HENNNNNN-REEE! and became one of the great saints of poetry-as-confession just before he disappeared from the planet. But wait a sec. Is a Roebuck a female Black dude? Or is it a manufacturee of a GMO-laden Monsanto trout with eggs that are manufactured in a petri dish? Who knows, who cares, why bother?
I've known that the Interwebs has been producing "cloud corporations" out of ions that piggy-back for free on the backs of willing (or unwilling) computer servers since at least 1995, but looking at an entire book of poetry titled "The Cloud Corporation" was totally surprising. I mean it. Totally. Who'd have thought this guy, not exactly a Spring Chicken, would have been literally blown off course by a freaking collection of massive daydreams that are actually a very quiet call to arms right out of the mystery zip code of poetry?
Look: Donnelly's no slouch. He is obsessed by deer. That deer could be Bambi, it could be Baby Doe's Restaurant right on top of a hellish hill just beyond Dallas, Texas's, American Airline Center where the Mavericks come to play with orange basketballs laden with parabolic runnels designed to imitate, well, like what? Perhaps Dirk Nowitzki, the Germanic master who keeps getting punk'd by call girls while actually moaning the same old line to the same old sportscasters like all the time, would know. I certainly do not. Donnelly himself is now a master of the English language, broken English not allowed, but also one of the top-dogs over at Columbia, a sort of Latin America's Teamleader in the Super Bowl of Life. And he assembled every single one of these poems from word list the professor cribbed from a number of unknown books.
Like, wowie. Did not see poetry in bits and bytes coming, did I? Did I mention I am a cloud? I'm vapor! A massive swarm of miniscule water droplets held-up by who-knows-what, and I am ready to rain. This, my friends, is called "deconstructionism" a form of art most famous in the Eighties in the artworld after a century of pummelling by the "creative destruction" of modernism in which Joyce decided to literarily destroy the novel (Finnegan's Wake), Eliot decided to make his poems a patchwork of mixed-metaphor combat bent upon obliterating the personality (even though he did not miss the opportunity to hog the mic on the BBC during the London Blitz), and of course, who cold forget Ezra Pound, the pompous American so full of allusions to the high and mighty Deep Readers' Book Club that he decided Mussolini was "the bestest" and ended-up being dragged through the streets of Rome in a cage. This is also part of a musical strategy developed by Michael Hindemith called "tension and release", a way of building-up anxiety and then literally reining listeners into the commercial of utter happiness, cow-puncher style.
I was a little disappointed by the fact somone I did not know would spend hours assembling or reassembling old texts everyone has forgotten (I ain't whistling Dixie) and turning them into "a thousand blossoms", little soldiers of encoded memes redeveloped in a form of word-bound gentrification.
We have one poem in which Peter Pan literally speaks to Wendy and tells her sea songs. We have dozens of others of poetic assemblages that are indeed quite beautiful. I particularly like the way the title page stretches no less than five pages: THE and CLOUD and CORPO and RATION. The line in the sand, in other words, is in the binding. Verso and Reverso! KEWL!!!!!
Of course, smallish and unknown attempts at literary magazines in an inhospitable city called Dallas do also contain poems by MOI, a notable one in which the author, inspired by seeing a homeless man asleep with a copy of a Tom Clancy novel over his head on a bench just to the west of the Arthur Fiedler Bandshell in Boston, Massachusetts, elevated of course by MOI into a line drawing of a dreaming poet left sleeping, a copy of Coleridge's poetry like a word bird over his face. Of course, MOI thought the sleeping homeless man, perhaps exhausted after years on the streets of Boston needed to be elevated into a poem about how to survive on the streets in a city of Red-Hots, even though the saddening memory of a mud-encrusted man clearly enduring one of perhaps many psychotic breaks busked for money just down the street to that huge Baptist woodshed with a steeple from Cambridge Square by poetry readings of the sadness of word salad.
Yes, that was a heart-rending moment we should never forget. The poor man was afraid to even accept a dollar while busking. I talked to him in the August dusk as soothingly as I could, told him I too was a poet without a home, hoping to calm him down off a manic cliff so steep I almost cried because I knew exactly how the downward curve of Gravity's Rainbow was going to feel. It is truly awful. The only thing a person can think of is "off the planet", not a Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, although Dallas, Texas, does have a long drop from the peak of a hill called Kingsley. Sometimes when I missed the bus from LHJH, I had to walk all the way home with a Bach trombone, used, in a neighborhood that at the time was loaded with those fancy Conns with multiple valves within the inner and ever-brassy carriage of the actual instrument. I at least did have one with a spit valve, and yes, I was grateful to have something better than that nasty old Olds, and the Bach, an original, owned by a boy named Wilkins in Richardson, Texas, formerly Fort Richardson, the outpost overrun by the Kiowa and Lakota who were tired of being cooped-up in Oklahoma and hence decided to steal horses.
But I diverge. I did not say divest. Taken as real poems, "The Cloud Corporation" has many beautiful moments. I liked it until I reached the end--where I realized this was just another assembly in which the principle speaks with the voices of the dead and thus copyright-free.
How could anyone ask for more of this? And who got the Linz Award in Dallas? My publisher, a socialite, surely not MOI, the one who rammed one-dollar journalism down the throats of all the professionals who mangled my entire life by ignoring my pleas for help.
Who ever said the Ku Klux Klan isn't alive and well in Texas? The Boston version is like a rabbit-tailed gang massacree straight off the docks of South Boston. A must.