Sunday, November 04, 2012

Steve Fellner's review of "The Pillow Book"

Steve Fellner reviews The Pillow Book on his blog, Pansy Poetics. The review is generous and kind, although it strangely links me to Joe Brainard and Charles Simic, poets to whom I bear no resemblance and owe no debt. What it calls aphoristic is actually written in the form of a tanka, for instance, "The sun casts shadows, and so why am I surprised that love makes darkness, as if I am not in its way?" Perhaps laying the tanka out as a single line hides the form from sight.

Like another reviewer of my previous book, he raises the question of whether the book is too "highly structured ... to give unequivocal respect to the form." The form refered to here is zuihitsu, or, in translation, following the brush, taken to mean a kind of casual jotting. I am no expert in zuihitsu but Sei Shōnagon, whom I took for my model, revised her Pillow Book for years after retiring from court, before releasing it to the world. The spontaneity of the form is more apparent than real. Whether my book appears spontaneous is, of course, a question of readerly judgment. In Steve's view, the brevity of my entries in the book--the longest is less than two pages--counts against its spontaneity. This is an interesting insight into American poetics.

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