IN THE WEAVER'S VALLEY by WILLIAM ALLEGREZZAEILEEN TABIOS Reviews
In The Weaver’s Valley by William Allegrezza
(Blue Lion Books, Espoo, Finland & West Hartford, CT, 2006)
The page before the first poem in William Allegrezza’s In The Weaver’s Valley offers a brief note about the book’s methodology, and it begins:
The governing rule in writing this collection was time. I set out to write five poems a day over fifty days.
In other words, there is a reliance on a concentrated focus for a significantly prolonged period of time. When such is deliberately part of the method, the mark of the work’s success, for me, is when, at some point in the process, the artist is tipped onto a higher level of play (that “zone,” in athletic parlance). In this zone, the poet ceases to write the poems and, instead, the poems write themselves.
The process is not unique, of course, to Allegrezza and I’ve seen it practiced in other arts like painting. Another example of this methodology of concentrated, prolonged focus is 100 MORE JOKES FROM THE BOOK OF THE DEAD (Meritage Press, St. Helena, 2001) which features an etchings-based collaboration between poet John Yau and visual artist Archie Rand. The two passed etchings to each other, Yau offering words from which Rand can riff visually and vice-versa. I cite this example because Yau wrote an essay about methodology from which I conveniently can cite:
Archie [once] proposed that we do one thousand watercolors over the course of a weekend. His reason was simple. Only by doing so many works in a single sitting could we possibly get beyond our habits of thinking, seeing and doing.
100 MORE JOKES… memorializes 100 etchings done in one sitting and it is a work that does transcend the limits of the autobiographical I/eye or what Rand calls “habits of thinking, seeing and doing.”
So, as I read through Allegrezza’s book, I was interested in getting a sense of whether the poems came to be writ from the “zone”. I suggest the answer is “Yes” --compare this poem on Page 8 (all the poems are untitled except for numbers and dates):
“I have played in the snow
as bombs were falling”
the contrasts that instruct
some ancient scribe
laughing covers his eyes
(no soft voice calms him)
“I would ask for forgiveness”
with the book’s second-to-the-last poem on Page 249:
white mountains rose above the trail.
we looked at them momentarily
and then continued walking.
Though I generally found all of the poems effective as individual works, for me, the latter/later poem seems closer to the (im)pulse that created it into being.
Moreover, as one reads through the book, its energy arc never slips; it’s as if each poem was engendered by the prior poem so that the energy, if a line, is ever vertical. It's process-based work -- which would make sense if, ultimately, one agrees that the poems came to write themselves.
Nonetheless, what is also marvelous about this collection is how the energy does not remain abstract. There is a specific narrative overlay to the book that need not have been necessary as the work’s energetic drive, alone, already thrills. As I read it, that narrative may have to do with the futility -- but a worthwhile futility -- to poem-making. Here’s the last poem:
as the darkness approaches
the weavers leave the valley
the shades move away
and the voices grow silent
discarded in the meeting spaces
where embers still smoke
and papers have not yet
succumbed to time.
I feel those last two lines form an ending of unflagging desire -- of anti-nihilism. We all die: the poem does not say “the papers have not/ succumbed…” but says “the papers have not yet/ succumbed to time.” But there is living to occur during that period of “not yet.”
And yet, poetry is replete with paradoxes. And a prolonged focus on poetry, a long work, may lead one to the phrase that surfaces repeatedly, insistently, throughout the book:
“true utterance lost”.
So be it. Poetry’s power is how inarticulateness has never prevented Poetry from existing. But, again, the reader ends with a conclusion of Hope. And, here, form matches content: Hope, as energy, is ever vertical -- that is, forward-looking.
Eileen Tabios HEARTS her dogs who often lie under a poker game here. Her latest poetry collection is THE SECRET LIVES OF PUNCTUATIONS, VOL. I whose 2006 sales proceeds will be donated to SAVE DARFUR.