Tuesday, September 07, 2010

R.I.P. Mark Linenthal

Michael Cross has a nice write-up in remembrance of Mark Linenthal, a San Francicso State University professor, former director of the university's Poetry Center, and mentor to many a Bay Area poet, who recently passed away. Cross's write-up includes an extensive introduction which Rob Halpern read for Mark's reading at the Last Laugh Cafe on January 12, 2008, a portion of which I include below.

I was fortunate enough to visit with Mark on two occasions when I visited San Francisco in the summers of 2007 and 2008. What stood-out to me about Mark were his irreverent yet good natured sense of humor, as well as his enthusiasm about poetry, and especially the poetries of George and Mary Oppen, who were his close friends.

Rob Halpern on Mark Linenthal's poetry:
At a time when the idea of experience has come under siege, Mark’s poems score, with uncompromised lucidity, the movement of their own attention making contact with a world where experience is still possible. In this sense, the poems are instructive: they prepare, in language, the presencing of an “experience” that remains outside language. For Mark, small acts of attention become consequential for locating one’s place in a world where “place” goes on eroding. Rather than giving into the force of that erosion and the rule of words, the poems bear witness to the fragility of location where a concern with “what can be said” becomes the most serious of all concerns. “What can be said”—as both direct question and relative statement—conditions the poems’ formal possibility while delimiting their content. It’s in their faithfulness to “what can be said” that Mark’s poems enact the values of clarity and precision, against injudicious obscurity and vague impressionism. But to measure one’s sense of measure—honestly and accurately—by “what can be said” requires a certain lightness of touch, and like Lester Young, after whom he wrote a great poem called “Listening to Lester,” we can hear Mark in his poems, “learning to play so lightly / he could believe it.”

No comments: