Magnetic Poetry and Midnight’s Marsupium

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There’s a somewhat mixed review, written by C.L. Bledsoe, of my chapbook Midnight’s Marsupium (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, 2010) in the current issue of Prick of the Spindle:

The book…never quite manages to delve deep enough below the surface of its playfulness to really connect with the reader in a meaningful way, I felt. Leong is a clever wordsmith, though, and I’d be interested in reading more of his work.

The issue regarding readerly connection is fair enough.  And, interestingly, Prick of the Spindle ran a review (it was an interesting and well-thought one) of my first book, e.s.p., that made a similar point:

With any experimental poetics, though, the risk is that to proceed by such unproven methods is to court failure: after all, for every light bulb that goes off in the head, any Edison has hundreds of botched trials and burnt-out filaments. Hence, for every polished Oulipo-like loop-de-loop, Leong has another poem that seems too clever by half, by failing to meet its reader halfway.

But whenever I read critiques in this vein I always think of John Ashbery’s famous comment that his poems are “accessible, for those who care to access them.”  I think making the reader work is as important as meeting him or her “halfway.”  I also think it’s interesting that the most prevalent metaphors regarding readerly connection are so thoroughly conditioned by a Whitmanian poetics: “Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged, / Missing me one place search another, / I stop somewhere waiting for you.”

My favorite sentence of Bledsoe’s review is the first one:

This brief collection is interspersed with pictures of collage poems that look like those refrigerator magnets arranged into poems, except they contain words I’ve never seen in any set of magnets.

Actually–I composed all of the visual poems using magneticpoetry.com, which allows you to play with virtual magnets online.  There are a variety of sets (“Original Kit,” “Love Kit,” “Poet”); I think I used the kit called “Geek” (or perhaps some kit involving office diction) to make the piece above.  In any case, I’m thankful that Bledsoe took the time to review an older title.

~ by Michael Leong on April 1, 2014.

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