I-FORMATION BOOK 1 by Anne Gorrick
(Shearsman Books, Exeter, U.K., 2010)
I-Formation is a book of dedicated density and extent. I think of it as a work that burrows, and will use several paragraphs to explain that. Presumably, it begins a larger work, but the 87 well-packed pages of this book consist of two lengthy series. That is what is before me, that is what I review.
I said ‘well-packed’ concerning this book and referred to its density. This impression derives from the work’s orthographic display. Gorrick alternates verses between flush left margin and tabbed 1” in. This releases the lines from a prosy expectation; each verse exerts within its own isolation. One notes a narrative momentum but also a vertical impulse of consideration. That vertical impulse brings to my mind the act of burrowing.
Gorrick nestles into the activity of words. Her syntax is largely ‘normal’. She grants the language she uses the space of active imagination without the roughshod of disjunctive intensity. The metre is prosy, let us say, but carries the citation of a vigourous language. Vigour, you see, resides in surprise and action. Gorrick carries us lightly into surprise.
I verge on the blither of blurb (more on blurbs anon) but I really mean to mean something here. I see in Gorrick’s burrowing an active process. She shapes the world, or it shapes her, by the continuing act of her writing. The singular poems in this collection, many of which were published elsewhere first, represent parts of some whole that she writes to reveal. This is assumption on my part.
Gorrick relies on series for both of the works presented here. The first, called “Her Site of Reversible Destiny”, offers nine sections. The section names define the growing season of a garden, The February Garden, The March Garden, through to the October Garden. The poem, then, becomes an installation in words of the gardening habit.
As any gardener knows, every present moment in a garden includes past and future. The seeds that will grow and the flowers that have blossomed tangle each moment with intersections. The sections of “Her Site of Reversible Destiny” resonate with intersections. Memory, reference, and allusion combine to evoke the nexus of that tangled moment of consideration.
How much of her need per ton of work?
The attraction to first flowers constrained
Peter typed the maple trees out of his fingers, pale as feet
These five large lilies will throw their
Singular stink around one evening in August
Thus begins The February Garden. Note the collected variance of impressions, hope, languor, trepidation, and expectation. Syntax looks regular, yet odd implications result. That first question delivers an impending criticism, whether of the poem or the garden, the reader must decide. Many such questions arise as one reads.
Gardens, it may be understood, refuse the notion of strict narrative payoff. You may want to gain the result of a fat tomato or beauty rose, but you have to ride the whole process, and still the whimsies may throw you off your goal. This is a great match to the poetic process, which may be as process-oriented as kiss my hand, yet the results are as the winds and wild made them.
“Her Site of Reversible Destiny” is no Shepherd’s Calendar, thou it may be of the same tradition. Its adjustments are quicker than calendar prerogatives, the timely surety present in the harvesting life. The harvest that Gorrick suggests engages a constant process of discovery. Change burrowing to tilling, if we must maintain metaphoric consistency.
“The Michelangelo Variations” make up the second half of I-Formations. We will say that the four pieces of “The Michelangelo Variations” were inspired or influenced by the work of the forenamed artist. Such influence seems to be a side matter however. A narrative conveys itself piecemeal and consequentially thru these pieces. Not a story in the sense of fulfillment, but instead a generous ride thru an oddly familiar neighbourhood. Gorrick posits the claim of studied facts, but not of narrative resolve. This again demonstrates to me a writing process tuned to a shifting diurnal provocation. Her writing, I’m thinking, is a chain of events. Fulfillment does not necessarily reside in resolution.
The title of the book grabs me. In American football, the I-formation consists of quarterback, who doles the ball out, fullback, who acts as battering ram, and tailback, who scampers with the ball. A neat writerly image appears. Choices are seeded in a collaborative process. All participants act within a processual imperative determined by the defense. Within the metaphor, the defense becomes the writing moment.
How does the momentary urge to write negotiate the present’s particulars? I forget who once wrote or said—Creeley or Williams, I think—he wants to write something but is saying it anyhow. That sense of will and result infuses Gorrick’s work here. Gorrick asserts a practical response, delivering an impulsive fund within the directives of her practice. Surprise allocates expansion.
Gorrick writes a wolfishly hardworking delivery. Narrative’s propulsion finds great extent as she practices the words she writes. Her process of discovery withholds controls. The quarterback decides where the ball will go, or the situation (the moment) finally does, and the collaboration of forces settles the tune.
Anne Gorrick’s book is both adventurous and personal, without seeming to weigh heavily with either engagement. I would like to see the larger work that I presume awaits Gorrick’s indices. She seems to be making a grand oeuvre in the way that, say Robert Duncan did, constantly accruing within the scan of her fascinations.
In conclusion, realizing that review only indicates ingress to a work, I would like to be on record as saying that two of the three blurbs for this book lose me. Geof Huth provides a thoughtful key for entrance into these works, as much as a few sentences can do. Kimberly Lyons and Lori Anderson-Moseman clutter the back cover with rat-a-tat. This observation has nothing to do with Anne Gorrick except, gee whiz, why smear the windshield? Anne Gorrick’s work is not a viscous prattle, so why associate with MFA code words? I find Gorrick’s work here a direct instigation in the poetic realm. The blurbs of Lyons and Anderson-Moseman blither. They should be reported.
Allen Bramhall was born by the banks of the Concord River in 1952 and has lived in Massachusetts ever since. He was educated at Franconia College and Lesley University, and in non-academic places as well. / Simple Theory / (Potes & Poets Press) was his first book. He maintains a blog called Tributary (http://tribute-airy.blogspot.com/), and a life with Beth and Erin. He is also the author of DAYS POEM, Vol. I and II (Meritage Press, St. Helena and San Francisco).