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We need to talk about Ossip.

December 18, 2011 \am\31 11:41 am

I missed Kathleen Ossip a few months back. She was meant to read in Oxford with Roddy Lumsden but someone fucked up and it didn’t happen, right at the last-minute. I’m almost glad, because since then I’ve read her second collection The Cold WarAlmost glad, because these poems would have been a lot to digest in a room with other people and no page to hold onto.

I think too often I say things about poets and poems being metatextual, or questioning what it means to write. The next time I got to say something like that I will think of this book.

I will think of this book because it really does do these things: it struggles with history in a literal way– not facing up to atrocities, but actually, terrifyingly prodding at the impossibility of history. This is not a grand and assertive action. She attempts many angles– she goes after literary criticism (‘The Nervousness of Yvor Winters’) to see if this is a way to get at honesty, tries the patterns of real speech, tries metered lyric… and while reading you might think, ‘why?’ I thought: ‘what is going on, I liked the opening poems about how impossible art is and now what is this?’

The thing that it is gets answered by this final poem, ‘The Cold War’. I want to share a few lines:

K. wakes up, thinks about the past, is sad’

‘K. wants to say fuck memory but what good will it do!’

But, wait. These are just the things that paraphrase the intricacies. Basically, ‘HISTORY’ gets shouted about a lot in poetry, and most of the time about current poetry that I don’t rate so much. This though, was a twist. Because she fails, she knows she is failing, because it is a cold war and because she isn’t trying save anything, but just to write.

So yeah. Read it.

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One Comment
  1. December 19, 2011 \pm\31 7:17 pm 7:17 pm

    Sorry the Oxford reading didn’t happen – Kathy and I were travelling about and we weren’t sure whether it had been rescheduled until it was too late to change our plans. Glad you like the book though.

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