Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof

Introduction to the Poetry of Bob Folder

In Bob Folder, Essays on January 14, 2009 at 4:02 pm

By P. Queneau

The salvation of the poetic sensibility is in our state. With the discovery of Bob Folder we have, unleashed upon us, the semantic equivalent of the Gatling gun at the Battle of Syracuse.

One instantly recalls Professor Creasy’s third-favorite slaughter for its metaphoric pronunciation of the fundamental hypothesis that events of controversial importance are rarely earthquakes, wildfires, revolutions or Acts of God, but often of a more antebellerophontic nature, a synchronal choice: the drawing of water from a tainted well, the starboard toss of a boomerang, the carbon-chain reaction of yeast rising.
To wit: “Epimenides says that Cretans are liars. But he is a Cretan. Therefore he lies. Therefore Cretans are not liars. Therefore, he speaks the truth. Therefore, Cretans are liars. Therefore, he lies….” This distillation of skeptic sophistry is roundly transcended in Folder’s work. With the line “Fall like a leaf from the sea,” (Poemland,) Folder has effectively negated and substantiated all absolutes. He has brought to light the insufficiency of eschatology, torn down the Berlin Wall of moral disorder, given us the victorious and irresistible element of humor in expatience. The seemingly flippant titles, expectorant references, religious opprobrity; all belie a deeper organic methodology: not just the divergent tasting of, but an unconditional swallowing of DeQuincey’s “latent capacity of sympathy with the infinite.” Laugh and the world laughs with you.

A loner by trade, Folder has observed and remarked the pitiable back-slapping of the minimalists and mediocre trends of the free-verse set. He has heard the off-key chords of a cranky divorce, the lamentations of temporary trout, an onion-skin sincerity; he has sniffed the deer-droppings at the mailbox and found them wanting. But neither is he immune to self-criticism. In The Bacon Critters, he tells us “… Baxter barked at the cardboard Bob.” The consonant framework and triptych interior rhyme notwithstanding, Folder has again beat us to his own punch. He dances on the edge of a mirror and, just as we pause, apprehending insult (the most abhorrent of all poetic devices,) he leaps forth like his “Patagonian hordes” and shows us that he is the clown, he is the fool. “I am guilty,” he seems to say, “The face you see is not yours but mine!” He stands, in the most ancient of Goliardic traditions, truly a cardboard mockery of himself. When asked if he counts the Dada movement of 1918 among his influences, he cites only one line from the Manifesto of M. AA the Antiphilosopher: “Extermination. Yes, naturally.”

This melancholy wisdom has been dearly purchased. In Sonnet For a Landlocked Numeral, he candidly informs us that “she” said, “I want you Bob, yes, I’ll make you mine.” Yet, she is “fidgeting,” about to “touch the knob.” This knob clearly is the door, the Kafka-esque prosecutor, and once again, the poet is alone. Yet, innovation is often the fruit of pain and suffering, as the structure of the sonnet bears out. Boldly compressing the accepted fourteen lines into a brash ten, Folder has tightened the form to suit his purpose: the enjambment of time. We see this not only in the ascending rhyme scheme (a-b-c, a-c-b,) but also in the almost metaphysically concrete imagery of the final line; the perpetual iambic catapult, as if a monosyllabic period will, in fact, enshrine not only the transient feeling, but even Coleridge’s “immenseness of the good and fair,” and continue on: “he slipped and gained eight or more who ran.”

Thus we have an appropriate metaphor for Folder’s method itself. Herein is presented merely a sample, a tiny shaft of goldenrod in the wheatfield of his work. Bob Folder has written a considerable volume of poems, essays and plays, as well as having conceived and developed a new, enlightening and accessible form: the list (to be included in his forthcoming work, Beanery Blurbs.)

Brilliant? Or skewed? Perhaps. But no more skewed than the Gingko biloba, transplanted from its native eastern Asia. Or Acer japonica (a favorite of Wordsworth’s,) known throughout the Willamette Valley for its seasonal flamboyance and gnarled, twisting branches in the soggy destitution of a Northwest January: behold the apparition in the proper light and you will find the shapes and forms of things unknown … not unlike watching the clouds on a Saturday afternoon. Or, in the words of Mr. Folder himself: “You got to take them like a snake swallows an egg; open wide and don’t worry about the shell—it’ll shatter soon enough.”

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