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So I’ve been under the gun at work and have some large deadlines looming so I’m going to have to enter full-on hack mode for a little while so these posts will be really shitty instead of just plain shitty.

Barry Gifford wears many hats and the hats he wears are pretty. He’s a poet, a novelist, a playwright, a screenwriter, a librettist, and many other things, all of which you can find on his website. Most people probably know his work through David Lynch, who adapted his novel Wild at Heart into the film that goes by the same name and then teamed up with him to write the screenplay for Lost Highway, which is probably my third favorite David Lynch movie. Gifford also teamed up with Matt Dillon to write the screenplay for City of Ghosts, which I haven’t seen and you probably haven’t either.

I think I’ve said this before but it seems audiences are skeptical of artists who excel in multiple genres, especially poets. Poets should just be poets. Maybe they can write a libretto, but stick to the verse. One of the cool things about talents like Barry Gifford is that he knows what should be a poem, what should be prose, and what should be avehicle for actors and directors. There’s no confusion in his mind about what the form should do.

The poem that appears in the February 2, 2009, issue of the New Yorker is a poem that can function only as a poem. There’s not a lot of figurative language (or none as far as I can see) and Gifford doesn’t make use of metaphor or simile or allegory or any of the standard tricks (nor does he need to). But the voice is engaging and there are elisions of information between the sentences that lends to the compactness of the poem and propels it to its poignant conclusion.

I’m not sure what he’s doing with the indentation of the lines or what it’s supposed to represent (I’ve never been good at deciphering that) or why he chose to exclude the period from his punctuation quiver.

Done. Sorry for the hack.

Postscript bullets of observation:

Vladamir Mayakovsky was an attractive Russian poet who killed himself by gunshot in 1930.

Further Reading

Jacket Magazine interview.

The Barry Gifford website.


The Author

D.S. Loney is a poet and writer living in Washington, D.C.


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