Alex Kostas Reviews Dan Disney

20 February 2017

With each enjambment between stanzas, Disney shows his brilliance, as each final word not only leads onto the next stanza (our springboard over the abyss) but also, if read as the end of the line, actually completes the stanza in a fresh way. So maybe, our reading minds say, it is not enjambment, but the end of the stanza. With this suggestion, the gap between stanzas is widened, but also made unsure: how exactly are we to cross to the next verse? This understanding of space, this delicate suggestion of ‘both/and’ is what elevates Disney’s writing to the level of Rilke and Levertov.

Disney’s familiarity with his poetry’s conversants is clear, and a real strength. He is, or at least appears to be, familiar with a wide range of writers from Hughes, John Ashbery, Jean-Paul Sarte, T.S. Eliot, William Wordsworth, John Cage, Robert Creeley, Immanuel Kant, W H Auden, and William Carlos Williams, to Sherry Turkle, Antony Easthope, Thomas Piketty, Michel Houellebecq, Yves Bonnefoy, Jorge Louis Borges, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Czeslaw Milosz, Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, Yehuda Amichai, Joseph Brodsky, Anne Carson, and Jorie Graham. The majority of these are poets, but there are a few artists, philosophers, social scientists and literary critics in the mix as well. It’s obvious that Disney has attempted to span generations, sexes and, to a degree, geography, in order to craft his poems.

A work like this in the hands of a lesser reader / writer than Disney would inevitably feel like nothing more than a collage, an exercise in patchwork and cobbling together of various points of view. But Disney clearly loves and understands the numerous influences poetry and writing has had on itself over the past few centuries, and he has a fairly global scope (in both his influences and his allusions within the text) that extends the horizon of what poetry can and maybe should do.

I have always been a proponent of poetry that does not allow itself the indulgence of writing for academia, or for obscurity’s sake. Many, myself included, could put Disney’s book into this camp upon first glance. It can feel impenetrable at times, especially upon initial reading, without a grasp of what exactly Disney is trying to do. And while I do think that poetry in general needs a certain level of discipline to avoid the overwrought, over-styled forms that can tend to encroach most literary journals, Disney’s work stands above such efforts, and his style of form and writing is definitely necessary to achieve what his work strives towards. Maybe, therefore, either, Orpheus is necessarily difficult. It requires a focused listener to hear the ‘sound-swarms’ in this book, and one who will take the time to really digest their implications in our over-modernised, rushing world.

This entry was posted in BOOK REVIEWS and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Related Posts:

Please read Cordite's comments policy before joining the discussion.