Well now, I'm adding Reginald Harris to the mix. His book Autogeography (2013) has several poems, including "Eastside Alphabetics," "Song for My Father," "While the Quartet Plays 'Body and Soul,'" "Notes Toward a poem About Love," "No Admittance," "Travel Journal," "The Secrets of Our Success," "The City Without You," and others, that take me away from my typical comfort zones, prompting me to move my eyes and trace my finger across the pages.
Here are a few lines from "Song for My Father:"
We turn up the same tunesOn the one hand, those spaces connote silences and pauses between words, and they allow for some time to reflect on what was said, written. At the same time, there's something about seeing (and then later for me re-presenting) the words occupying more space on the page like that.
on the radio nod to the same beats
scat the solos wake the sleeping van
with our duet
For some time now, I've thought about wordplay in poems by Hughes, Amiri Baraka, and Young. But now, reading and paying attention to the look or aesthetics of poems on the page by Shockley and Harris, I'm inclined to think more about design-play or arrangement-play or something along those lines to signal what's being done as the poets take these intricate and design-conscious approaches to poem layout. Obviously, Shockley and Harris are not the first and only poets to take such approaches; they are just the first ones in my small and personal universe of poetry that I've been working up the abilities to write about here. So we'll see what happens moving forward.
In the meantime, I'll keep tracing Harris's movements across the page, trying to figure out where he's leading us.
• Some volumes of poetry published in 2013
• 12 Years Earlier: From Reginald Harris's Autogeography to 10 Tongues