Posts Tagged ‘we can do it’

Katie’s Second Critical Article

Saturday, April 27th, 2013

In Thomas Gardner’s article “The End of Beauty’ and a Fresh Look at Modernism,” he addresses Graham’s visualization and process, as well as focuses on Graham’s engagement with Stevens, Frost, and Eliot within her long poem titled “The End of Beauty.” Gardner states that, “In a sense, Graham reaches back across her immediate predecessors to the modernists, drawing from them ways of thinking and moving implied but never fully developed in their work. That return is the central drama of “The End of Beauty.” This provides the reader with a solid understanding of her continuance of her predecessors poetry, as well as laying a foundation for her own.

Gardner first focuses on Stevens “The Idea of Order at Key West,” noting that Graham uses this to show that Stevens idea of an act of representation, and Graham’s idea of the gap/moment of uncertainty are relatively similar. Stevens speaker happens upon an order of representation, and “the song existing alongside the sea without forcing the sea to conform to its voice, what Graham would call a gap or moment of uncertainty is opened up” (336). Graham uses this moment of uncertainty in her poetry, providing similarities between the poets.

Gardner argues that Graham responds to Stevens, referring to his poem in her “Ravel and Unravel” poem in “The End of Beauty.”  Garnder says that “when Graham picks up the poem fifty years later, it’s as if she turns it away from its concluding celebration of the rage to order and back to its acknowledgment of the generative difference of song and sea–the moment when the sky became, by way of the song, “acutest at its vanishing.” Ravel and Unravel,” like many of the poems in The End of Beauty, is a meditation on the moment just before an idea or shape crystallizes. Graham thinks of this as the moment when the mind, absorbed in “process,” is most fully alive and engaged” (338).

Gardner then shifts his focus to Graham’s poem “Vertigo” and Frost’s “Birches.” The importance in these two poems are the actions, in Frost’s, the speaker is kicking his way down whereas Graham’s speaker is slow and subdued while responding to her surroundings. Gardner asserts that, “Birches,” like “The Idea of Order,” is a meditation on form–the voice of the woman in Stevens’ poem becoming what Frost describes as a “small man-made figure of order and concentration” standing against a “background [of] hugeness and confusion shading away from where we stand into black and utter chaos.” “Birches” asks what an acknowledgment of the fragility of form might open up” (341). It’s interesting to note that Frost’s speaker is physically active, kicking, and seemingly assertive, Graham’s speaker is paused, anxious, and hesitant.

Lastly, Gardner addresses the connection between Graham’s “Pollock and Canvas” and Eliot’s “The Wasteland.” Graham questions Pollock’s technique, and responds to “Eliot’s speaker breaking free of that oppressive sense of deadness for just a moment, crying to a friend” (346). Graham imagines herself staring into an open grave within the Pollock painting, and alludes to Eliot’s King Fisher, as well as focuses on the body, hands, and beauty within. Ultimately, the lasting question is if these three poems (“The Idea of Order,” “Birches,” and “The Wasteland,”) had alternate possibilities.

Personally, the most important part of this article was Graham’s usage of her poetry forefathers (if you will) within her poetry. She uses them to further her exploration of poetry/being a poet, and I love that. Her inclusion and furthering of their poetry within hers shows almost a paying of respects, as well as continuance to take the poetry further than ever before. Gardner’s mentioning of the moderns movement and usage of the word “habitable,” helped me to see Graham’s unique ability to build upon their foundations, even if her poetry is a work in progress. Thinking of their poetry as a foundation for and building of a house, and Graham’s poetry a renovation on said house that is in progress,  allowed me to mentally put piece the progress together and respect and value it that much more.

Gardner, Thomas. “The End of Beauty’ and a Fresh Look at Modernism.” Southwest Review 88.3 (2003): 335-49. Academic Serach Complete. Web. 21 April 2013.