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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Reflections on Mark Scroggins Red Arcadia

What is the value to me of the exacting demands that I place upon reality. Alienation and isolation are not goals. Power and acknowledgement are. Mark Scroggins poetry has the value of raising such questions. The text, with simple irony, sings the “brusque and gay / life of the entrepreneur, selling and buying  /  and getting laid .“ The entrepreneur, in contrast to the poet with his “sheaf of printout” – reading and seeking acknowledgement I suppose–achieves what the poet cannot. Our desires may be machine-made by the entertainment media, the jump-cuts of Scroggins’ text are maddening, madding, in its cultural reach from Hollywood to Ruskin. The idiom here is laced, like acid, with a derisive exactitude of observation. Are these words those of another melancholy Jacques, a flarfish Baudelaire performing bricolage with “truisms.” The notion of a “truism” is itself the favorite  idée fixe of the American middle classes. No original thought in the suburban tracts of Scroggin’s Florida. Those suburbs are memorialized apparently in the title, Red Arcadia, recently published by Shearsman, a lovely book. As the poet notes elsewhere in the collection, “airy and affordable Manhattan” is a fantasy in which we participate, reflexively, only through fantasy. Thus the “red” of an old Marxist paints your title and your titles that I have cited here, two poems, “Untitled” and “Goldfinches.” Each poem of Red Aercadia sutures images that the viewing public (including the poet and this reader) share because of our consumption of media, for instance, the effects of a mortar explosion as produced by Hollywood, “the patter of dirt / and the thud of clods / drizzling down over your head” from the first poem in the collection, “Dawn, New and Improved”). A Hollywood quality of production perhaps emulated by the nightly news in its embrace of entertainment values. And who in any case, any longer watches the nightly news? Scroggins is well-versed in in the discontinuities of the media landscape, his take echoing the pornographic and seductive qualities described by Jean Baudrillard than the hopelessly hopeful villages of Marshal McLuhan’s dream.

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