Crystal Good Poet Bibliography

Sheppard, Walt. "An Interview with Clarence Major and Victor Hernández Cruz." In New Black Voices, edited by Abrham Chapman. New York: New American Library, 1972, pp. 545-552. Wallenstein, Barry. "The Poet in New York: Victor Hernández Cruz." Bilingual Review 1 (1974): 312-319.

Aldon L. Nielsen

THE CRYSTAL TEXT CLARK COOLIDGE

(1986) Though sometimes associated with the language school, Clark coolidge arrived at his poetics in advance of that group and has demonstrated a meditative or reflective tendency in works like Melencolia (1978) and Mine: The One That Enters the Stories (1981). The Crystal Text extends this tendency. A 150-page thought-excursion on the relations between language, perception, and the material world occasioned by a colorless quartz crystal, it was published simultaneously with Solution Passage: Poems 1978-1981 (1986), a nearly 400-page collection of short lyrics and lyric sequences (see lyric poetry). "Either of these books," Geoffrey O'Brien observed, "by itself would be a peak; to be given both at once seems a natural wonder" (45).

"To grasp the relation of words to matter, / mind, process," we read on the poem's second page, "may be the greatest task" (8). For the objectivist poet Louis zukofsky, the test of poetry is "the range of pleasure it affords as sight, sound, and intellection" (xi), three categories that roughly correspond to matter, process, and mind in these lines. But while the perfect objectivist poem, for Zukofsky, is itself a complete object that achieves what he calls a "rested totality" (13), Coolidge's poems are restless and ongoing processes that reflect the improvisational nature of his work (stemming from his time as a jazz drummer and his deep affinity for the spontaneous be-bop prosody of Jack kerouac). The meditative qualities of The Crystal Text have precedents in his earlier works. In the early 1970s Coolidge began a close friendship with the artist Philip Guston. The two engaged in regular discussions about the nature and function of art and writing; Coolidge recorded some of these observations in notebooks, which provided material that went into not only Coolidge's collaborations with Guston (Baffling Means) but also the opening pages of The Crystal Text.

Critic Krysztof Ziarek identifies the crystal as a metaphoric link among language, the being of self, and the material world. In an interview, however, Coolidge says the crystal is a not a metaphor and that he "was interested in the crystal in the sense of what the crystal might do to things, to me, to the writing, to the day, to the mood, to whatever might come along" (41). In other words, the poem is less about the crystal—only a fraction of the text mentions the crystal itself—and more the thoughts, objects, and associations the crystal occasions. Or, as the poem states: "The crystal is but one nexus in the drain / of possibles" (94).

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