In Peter Gizzi’s fifth and newest poetry collection, Threshold Songs (Wesleyan University Press, 108 pages), the poem serves as a place where Gizzi can “talk / to myself through you.” He asks, “what does it mean / to be tough / or to write a poem / I mean the whole / vortex of home / buckling inside.” The collection is a place where Gizzi can articulate the “aboutness” of language, the interval between discursive sounds. This place both urges speech and thwarts the compulsion; it’s the gap where poetry is invented internally and is exonerated externally.
Acclaimed poet Ben Lerner’s first novel is a fascinating and often brilliant investigation of the distance (or the communication) between experience and art. In Leaving the Atocha Station, an aspiring American poet on fellowship in Madrid finds himself in the places between languages, between feeling and thought, between places, and, most often, between lived experience and “the moment of art.”
The narrator, Adam Gordon, is highly conscious of these various thresholds. The idea of translating language saturates his every encounter, as Adam pretends to understand an event or a person. Perceived misunderstandings about his grasp of Spanish lead him to represent himself in a way he thinks would be in line with expectations about a poet studying abroad. (He constructs elaborate lies about his mother’s death and his father being a fascist.) He often confesses to these manipulations and is dreadfully aware of his dishonesty.