Suddenly,

by Robin Blaser



I live in a room named East
on the map of the West   at the edge

near the door cedars and alders
mix and tower,
full of ravens   first thing each morning,
whose song is
                           a sharpness

 
we quarrelled so
                               over the genius
of the heart
                           whose voice is capable

 
they come on horseback
in the middle of the night,
two of them,   with a horse for me,
and we ride,   bareback
clinging to the white manes,
at the edge of the sea-splash,

 
burst open,

 
                            to divine
the hidden and forgotten source,
who is transparent
where the moon drops out of the fog
to bathe,
but not to us

 
the retied heart
                            where the wind glitters

                                                                      for Ellen Tallman

Notes on the Poem

Robin Blaser's "Suddenly," from his 2008 Griffin Poetry Prize winning collection The Holy Forest, fascinates in myriad ways and on many levels. Deceptively simple and arresting is who he wields word and line spacing to guide the reader and create haunting, subliminal effects. We've remarked before how spacing in a poem's layout on the page (or screen, where the poem's print form can be rendered accurately) influences how a reader experiences a poem. This excerpt from C.D. Wright's Rising, Falling, Hovering is a great example. The images in Blaser's poem are already vivid, strung together with dream-like logic, and this is further emphasized by both spacing and punctuation, which even achieves intriguing and unexpectedly dramatic impact in the poem's title. Jed Rasula, Professor of English at the University of Georgia, observes how beautifully Blaser arranges spacing in his poems:
"The poet's sensitivity to the tenuous grasp of words, reflected in the awesome grip of the hidden and "bitten" heart, is accentuated by the poem's spacing. The words are semantically informative, yet blank spaces are deployed where punctuation might customarily serve. Blaser's meticulous attention to spatial detail reinforces the rhythmic allure of the images. The pages of Image-nations 1–12 [also found in The Holy Forest] are choreographies, imprints of movement that return the emotions to their transitive order in motion."
"Historically, fragmentation has been used as a troubling effect, or to indicate a subject under stress." This observation comes from a recent article about Anne Carson's latest work Float, which takes the concept of spacing even further.

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