Saturday, January 22, 2011

Poetry of Cedar Sigo: Stranger in Town

I was delighted to discover recently a truly  interesting and exceptional book of poems by Cedar Sigo, a young poet currently resident in our town. The poems are consistently intelligent and provocative, and the book also constitutes something of a big departure for City Lights, which has been in the doldrums for many years in terms of publishing work by local poets, unless that work qualified stylistically as museum-type-beatnik or else, let us say, as beatnik-derived.

Either way, the number of San Francisco poets included in the City Lights portfolio have not been numerous, and are far out-numbered by poets from Mexico, Russia, Israel, Morocco and indeed almost anywhere but here. Therefore Stranger in Town is something of a breakthrough for City Lights, and it does seem like they've finally hit upon the mad idea of publishing some local poets. (If one could induce the San Francisco Poetry Center and Small Press Traffic to focus more on locals instead of importing authors from hundreds of mile away, one's joy would be even more complete.)

Cedar's writing is indeed marvelous, and achieves its effect through sequences of apparently unrelated associations, meaning that it is up to the reader to provide the context for the poem. You really have to interact with each poem, if you're going to mount your board and surf with it.

I suppose this will seem difficult, arbitrary, perhaps annoying to some, but the trick here is that there exists an internal and intuitive logic to the chain of verbal events, which you may be able to recreate for yourself by simply reading the poems aloud and not thinking too much about them. It's exactly this unspoken logic which renders them convincing, indeed in this case exceptional.

You can find out more about Stranger in Town and its author here, and you can also read the first five poems in the collection here to see if you agree with my enthusiasm.