Thoughts on John Yau’s Further Adventures in Monochrome (Copper Canyon Press, 2012)
At a Rutgers poetry reading yesterday, I introduced John Yau. Here’s what I said:
According to John Ashbery, John Yau’s 2002 collection Borrowed Love Poems is “a dazzling collection from a poet at the height of his powers.” Now, a decade (and several books) later, John’s most recent volume Further Adventures in Monochrome amply demonstrates that such powers are continuing to radiate at peak efflorescence. Looking again at Katherine Bradford’s painting Super Flyer, which is reproduced on the cover of Further Adventures, we might even say that John’s powers are increasing, are reaching new heights, and we might interpret the steadfast and determined figure in the upper left-hand corner as John, himself, as he zips away into the poetic stratosphere, leaving us mesmerized by his bright, spiraling wake. Where is he going? The sky’s the limit, we might be tempted to think, but we immediately retract such a clumsy cliché as we remember John’s poem “Genghis Chan: Private Eye XXXIX” which bids us, through a witty word play, to “disguise the limit.” This, I would say, is sage philosophical advice. The analytic philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once said, “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” John Yau deftly disguises such linguistic limits so that he can smuggle us past them, so that he can take us—miraculously—into worlds well beyond our imagining. Buckle up, ladies and gentlemen, and hold on to your capes: super-flyer John Yau is ready for take-off.