Monday, February 05, 2007

Criticism is supposed to sound like this:
The catalogue takes the form of what al-Qasim calls a sarbiyya--an impressionistic collection of shifts in tone, perspective and mood. As Adina Hoffman notes in her superb introduction to Sadder Than Water, sarbiyya is derived from the word sarb, which means "flock"; a sarbiyya shifts suddenly like flocks of birds in flight, and in "Sadder Than Water" the shifts gather momentum from the poem's incantatory music. Al-Qasim uses a short line often scored with anaphora and end-stops, meaning that successive lines begin with the same word or phrase and end with punctuation or a rhythmical pause. He amplifies and modulates this music by concluding many of the poem's sections with a short refrain built around the spooky phrase "sadder than water": "And you--sadder than ants,/sadder than darkness,/sadder than sadness and water"; "You fold and fall,/strange and sad--/sadder than water."
John Palattella in The Nation. (Liked the Armantrout poem the other week too.)

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