052.1: Gillian Conoley:: Experiments in Patience I-III
7 March 2011
I recently discovered the prepared piano pieces of John Cage and Conlon Nancarrow. At first, the pieces frustrated my expectations of what musical composition could (or should) be. After a few hours of listening and cocking my head, I realized that this was an artistic encounter I had not experienced in a long, long time: genuine surprise. Gillian Conoley’s poetry is as welcome and genuine a surprise. Conoley punctuates her experiments with phonetic and lexical splashes without detracting from the levity of addiction and frustration: “Six signs you need to detox—patience broods and peacocks”. Conoley also manages tremendous subtlety with sarcastic humor. Few poets could manage the simultaneously sharp and off-handed “Family more/than genetics/and laundry” in lyrically meditative space. Even fewer could fill two lines like “I love you,//but it spills” with such authenticity and mystery. Weeks ago, I found myself cocking my head, pondering these experiments. I couldn’t avoid a gratuitous use of the word “and” in this introduction just to describe Conoley’s poems. I’m an amateur. But then I remembered that in French, experience and experiment derive from the same word. And this insight, without providing answers, at least indulges us in such numinous surprise.