027.1: Adam Strauss:: 2 & 8 & 12 027

Adam Strauss seems to answer everything in the first line of his first poem below: "Because I am". In some sense we could stop here, because what else is there? To stop here, though, would be to miss what makes existence the wonderful happening that it is: to be obsessed by the glam-ness of John Ashbery, to see the exact hues that Paul Cezanne painted with, to drink oolong tea, to consider the necessity of the moon, to think of Barbara Guest in the lines "...but, dear now, 'as full as store' / Remains and an emphasis / Falls and the more / It does...". In these poems, stopping is not an option. The world moves and things change and the mind continues to think. In a series of line-by-line, phrase-by-phrase tangential, projective moves, Strauss takes us over vast tracts of space, from an obsession with John Ashbery to wine lists to one's nerves; from a wombat to looking out a window to silence eclipsing speech; from responsibility to losing a moon to resuming small talk.

What nearly gets lost in the series of experiential revelations in these poems is their technical dexterity. Strauss began these poems with the intention of writing using a Terza Rima rhyme scheme. He ended up producing a more intricate scheme that repeats rhymes beyond the requirements of Terza Rima. The rhyme scheme reminds us that, as real and true as the poem is to us, it is also an object created in a moment where Strauss sat down and said "I will write this poem now." And it is the realization that I will write this poem that creates the self-awareness that begins: "Because I am." Andrew Wessels


Because I am
Obsessed by John
Ashbery who is so glam
But also homespun like “‘hon’”
Honeying a corridor
In an opera house or a lawn
On which nature would do a poor
Comparison next to this neon
Green flamingo where here, there, sore
Spots of pink show through
Flinging me to a place which couldn’t be more
To my liking than if this blue
Were the exact—like a spore—
Hue Paul Cezanne knew
Though the wine lists everywhere
Are barely fit for me and, certainly, not you—
With your nose for rivers, a pair
Of nostrils in whose noble view
Bordeaux can air
Its specifics which any sensible
Person would need a label to know and wouldn’t care
If there were no label, as soul
Frames vision once you dare
Heat as fittest signal
For your nerves to not stay away.


I, like my
Animal the wombat, shy
Away from a flower
Garden if there’s fruit
Growing elsewhere and though I don’t tower
Over much but a myriad critters I suit
Living to a T and after your shower—
Secure it’s time for not giving a hoot—
You brew oolong, pour
Yourself a cute
Cup, look out the window till you can ignore
What’s happening: you’re at the square root
Of seeing and then a car-door
Slams—the reverie is
Over but, dear now, “as full as store”
Remains and an emphasis
Falls and the more
It does, Memphis, its down-home Egyptian way, makes us miss
That profound
We used to count
As true thus silence eclipses
Speech—as sound as it’s said to be.


Responsibility, it seems,
Is for the birds,
Who don’t in my wildest dreams
Do anything but work hard to stay alive; words
Are easy pickings compared
With eating enough insects; in a great dream thirds
Of everything is enough good; waking I’m spared
Such modesty; extravagance blizzards—
What would happen if one day the world dared
To do without a moon:
Would the tides be prepared?
On a dune,
With sun already having glared,
In a pitch which never becomes a tune,
I’ll scrawl
Ciphers unless it’s later than soon
Here will be under sea; might all
Be clearer there, where noon
Sun requires a new sense and back on land small
Talk resumes its course.