Iris: A book-length poem by Mark Jarman
eBook Title: Iris: A book-length poem
Publisher: Story Line Press; First edition. edition (May 1, 1992)
Category: Literature & Fiction
Size ePub vers.: 1616 kb
Size PDF vers.: 1391 kb
Other formats: cb7, odf, pdf, azw, ibooks, mobi
I haven't read a new poem for years as extravagantly daring as Mark Jarman's IRIS. This strange and obsessive narrative risks violating almost every preconception we have about how a serious contemporary poem should behave. First, IRIS risks seeming unoriginal. The poem is a passionate homage to Robinson Jeffers, our most neglected modern master. Jarman borrows Jeffers' line, his voice, his landscapes, and his vision. Eventually he even borrows Jeffers himself by making his imagined ghost the tragic chorus of this feverish drama. But the sheer audacity of Jarman's appropriations - like Blake recasting Milton or Pound impersonating Propertius - becomes something more wildly innovative and astonishing than those tame adjustments of theme and style we normally praise as originality. Next, IRIS risks being earnest. In an age when literary criticism celebrates irony, ambivalence, and indeterminacy, Jarman resolutely insists that poetry can truthfully explore matters of mortal consequence. IRIS is the story of a woman who refuses to be crushed by the sordid circumstances of her life - the poverty and drugs, the violence and unredemptive love. In a better world she would have been an artist. But in her desperate corner she struggles simply to understand how freedom or fulfillment is possible. Born to hell, she strains for a glimpse of paradise, even if it can never be her own. Finally, IRIS risks reaching for the sublime. Writing about the landscapes of everyday life, using the language of ordinary people, Jarman pushes his material to its uppermost limit where naturalism merges into myth. IRIS has enhanced the possibilities of our literature by reclaiming a lost tradition of American poetry.