Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Beckett on a golf course: Steve Tills / Rugh Stuff

Steve Tills is done with the tedious. Rugh Stuff is not his first book of poetry - there are two preceding this - but it is, as he writes in his bio note, his "first book of poetry written in a foreign language." As Tills knows, the language-of-the-everyday can be a tedious (his word) English, and Rugh Stuff is anything but tedious.

This poetry collection is original, demanding and playful. Title and references are to golf, a sport about which I know nothing more than Scotland, Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods; and to watch it on television is anesthetic and sleep inducing. But in combining two lifelong loves - golf and poetry - Tills lets go of his "own most tedious poming [sic] over the years"and allows us to witness his breaking through the [tedium of] self to the place where something else new and alive happens. Tills' poetry projects over the years include the blog and journal Black Spring.

Read the following outloud:

The feathery,
the rubber
and fluffed and shied and sklentit

The smooth surface hacked,
then hammered,
no longer fit for play
Do you hear the lilt and rhythm, the description by onomatopoeia, by sound? "...dooked/and fluffed and shied and sklentit" creates good and satisfying sounds - and sounds are a poem's helix. How those cries and whispers in our ears mesh is part of a poet's and poem's individuality. It is irrelevant that I don't always know - for sure - what Tills is talking about regarding the specifics of that slow game of walking, swinging, estimating. Certainly a poetry-loving golfer will have an enriched understanding of this book, but the argument for "relevance" (reading olde Sappho or Plato or Dante in college) has been won by anyone who loves Sappho, Plato and Dante. My freshman comp. students did. Good writing clears the brush from its path.

I believe Tills when he writes, "The beauty of this game/is mostly non-verbal." As is true of a sunset or meadow - and still we need to describe nature's beauties and our love's cheek. "Golf is several games of some/Fools for illusion and a selection of stix laid out, end/over end by, bye (in the grip of)/these pools of perfection, the knot/in everything until nothing's/the score that adds up . . ."

That's the metaphysical life, where the score doesn't add up (is above beyond greater than the sum of its parts), and golf is "over 'nd over, odd collection of clumps/in the mixed baggage, the fixed/delusions of manure, the fat split second/chants for par done, cries from the prefect's life,/the perfect knife, the bleeding/and dirigeable walk in the park."
The prefect's life, the perfect knife. My foot's tapping. Like the piano, poetry is - or can be - a rhythm instrument.

Tills has an eye and ear for fellow golfers, with their lusts:

"Whet? Melt 'um, gooey, Lassie
gits raw afternoons, she
cunna love yer balls; he
just ta'es her as he plays?"

cunna love yer balls? My imagined and stereotypical foursome of golfers - bankers and insurance salesmen - becomes, for Tills, a trope of the common person as they are "deliberating so much/over the scoreboard,/counting strokes/instead of breaths/or blades of grass,/or angels/in the lonesome clouds."

Neglected, the clouds and metaphysical kingdom are lonesome; but Tills' attentions surely brighten a metaphysical kingdom's day.

Rugh Stuff. by Steve Tills. theenk Books. ISBN-13 978-0-9647342-4-1

Samuel Beckett: "Just under the surface I shall be, all together at first, then separate and drift, through all the earth and perhaps in the end through a cliff into the sea, something of me. A ton of worms in an acre, that is a wonderful thought, a ton of worms, I believe it."

Beckett on a golf course: I used this phrase in describing Tills on a listserv. I'm stealing here, but from myself.

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