Damian Rogers reads Suzanne Buffam

Here she’s talking about the IrrationalistIMG_6741.JPG. Read the entire piece over on LemonHound.

The wonderful is on full display throughout The Irrationalist. The language is fresh, precise, and natural; the form and structure, both micro and macro, support the voice without overshadowing it. Throughout the book, Buffam references some of the best minds of the Western tradition: Paul Eluard, Nicolaus Copernicus, William James, Henry Beecher, Luis Bunel, Galileo, Ad Reinhardt, Robert Rauschenberg, Wallace Stevens, Leonardo Da Vinci, Flaubert, Schopenhauer, Jean Cocteau (plus a passing invocation of Tom Cruise). This may sound like namedropping, but Buffam introduces their ideas only to expand on them from a particular point of view. Again and again this underlines the fact that though each of us lives in an echo chamber, one can only connect to the precepts of others through the framework of her own perspective.

And though these poems find their beauty and strength in their alignment with the irrational, Buffam resists the temptation to simply disappear into a house of mirrors. “Don’t tell me there’s another, / Better place. Don’t tell me // There’s a sea / Above our dreaming sea,” she writes in the poem “Ruined Interior.” These are poems that keep reaching for new imaginative possibilities and yet they are equally concerned with constant reorientation, with a determination to avoid the dangerous cul-de-sac of self-delusion.

In “The New Experience,” she wryly states that “Experience taught me / That nothing worth doing is worth doing / For the sake of the experience alone.” To that I would add that the poem worth reading is not worth reading only for the message it might carry in its lines. After thousands of years of intellectual inquiry, the basic questions remain unanswered. Buffam reveals by example that to look outward — to the philosophers, scientists, and artists that have come before — will always lead you back to yourself.

Which leads me back to the way these poems make me feel as if my awareness of my own surroundings — including my own mind — is enlarged when I read them. I like what Buffam says in these poems, but more than that, I get off on how they operate on my consciousness. All over the world, chemists strive to perfect pharmaceutical formulas so that they can pack into a pill the kind of clear, elevated sensation that Buffam produces with words on paper.

Join Suzanne Buffam, Damian Rogers and Sarah Burgoyne
Thursday, November 3, at 7:30 PM
Grey Nuns Building M100, 1175 Rue St Mathieu

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