Sunday, February 22, 2015


It seems so appropriate that the only photo I could find online of the cover of poet Phyllis Wat's latest book, WU GOING THERE, is radically reduced in size, as though it was deliberately being humble in announcing itself. Much like Wat's poems.

Though that seemingly natural humility is supported by an iron like certainty in its word selection and juxtaposition. In other words, her poems illustrate the confidence of a poet who knows the language she writes is her own, that it's her voice and the gift she has for articulating it that drives her poetry and thus it speaks for itself with no need for calling any extra attention to it.

This book has become a new favorite of mine. Pick it up and read around in it and I think it will be obvious why. Wat has the same kind of notational dailiness to her poetry as another favorite poet of mine but who I've been reading for many more decades, Joanne Kyger. But where Kyger has the intense succinctness of Emily Dickinson combined with a kind of indirect Buddhist detachment, Wat has a more architectural approach to structure, like some of Frank Gehry's early and smaller creations.

That may all be a little too opaque, so here are two poems from WU GOING THERE to illustrate:

"A Walnut Looks Like a Brain
I was reading about flying brains,
   possible alternate universes,
      Boltzmann's brains to be exact... he's a cosmologist.
   About half the people in the U.S. are crackpots.
      About half thinks science is nuts.
I was orderly from the get-go,
   a kind of ascetic.
I thought of mathematics
   as matter matics;
      it limited the options,
My home is an Indian bedspread,
   wooden eating bowl, saki-jar flower vase,
      hand's width of book.
         Master the details."


I'm an animist;
I think rocks think.
Exceedingly slowly, but deeply as well.
Brains and legs make the world more uncertain.
Satisfyingly so, to be sure."

There's longer poems and poems that spread out more on the page and resonate with space and placement, but the two above give a sense of the voice in all of them, humbly unique.

2 comments: said...

I agree! Phyllis Wat's book is one of this year's standouts. I've read it several times and find new things to enjoy with every reading!

Don Yorty said...

Yes Phyllis is a wonderful poet. Excellent to think of her.