Monday, May 25, 2009

Poem By Chad Sweeney, Fellow Duchamp Lover

The Sentence

The bones of Marcel Duchamp
laid end to end
reach all the way

to the bottom of this hill
where a little slab of concrete
bridges one

obscurity to another
and Mr. Duchamp seems pleased
the way I've places his jaw

in relation to the atlas
his wisdom teeth
commanding long sharp shadows

though it's noon
(the midnight of day)
and we've nowhere to go

and the oblique syntax of bones
repeats its inquiry
in the language of the world

This poem was published in the Best American Poetry 2008, chosen by guest editor Charles Wright. Chad Sweeney said "I wrote 'The Sentence' while staring at a bird marsh. I've always been intested in the communication between text and the plastic arts, and this image rippled mysteriously across the marsh- the bones of Marcel Duchamp stretched into a long sentence, as both lingual structure and sculpture, one of Duchamp's readymades pieced together from found objects. The drama takes place at noon, motionless noon crouched into negative capability, when the world is worlding, and forms pulse in a combination of protean grammar. Several months later I wrote about the bird marsh while staring at a junk yard."
If at first I thought I should draw a more complete correlation between this poem, and Anna Crocker, Sweeney tells me it doesn't need to be so. The Portland Art Museum has one of Duchamp's boxes, complete with miniature plastic and glass objects placed to signify his readymades. If ever you want to see one up close, while you stand under a Calder mobile, and read your Chad Sweeney.

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