South is following me again and Runaway rhythm 1900-2011
Johnson, Miriam Janell
MetadataShow full item record
The South Is Following Me Again is a collection of poetry composed over a three-year period, which focuses on my interest in my roots as an ex-patriot from the American South and the growing occurrences of runaway rhythm within my own work as I researched and defined the term. There is a strong theme of ‘Southernism’ that permeates the collection and is evident in the nostalgically atmospheric poems such as “A Haunting”, “Greenhouse Effect”, and “Textually Active” as they present an interesting and somewhat foreboding sense of the South. The collection then moves into a series of four southern dialect poems, which explore phonetically written poetry of a southern family, as it evolves away from the Southern epicentre of the collection. Delicate issues such as Mexican/American immigration in the poem “Immigration Policy”, and deaths and illnesses of friends and lovers in “Poem for a Murdered Friend”, “Radio Therapy”, and “Audience Participation” are dealt with strategically by refusing to sentimentalise or moralise the subject. There are a few poems that deal with love and sex in engaging and playful forms, as can be seen in “Answering God’s Call” and the “Torture Garden” series, which leads characters through a memorable visit to a hardcore fetish night, and marks the point in the collection where the reader is furthest removed from the South. Some of the poems hinge on more intellectually surreal concepts such as “Esoteric”, “The Guards”, “Timeless”, and “Café Tutu Tango” and challenge the reader to disentangle the rhythm from the content of the lines. Moving on from the esoterically obscure, the poems “Travelling Horses”, “Bottoms Up”, and “Bombilation: a cousin of Howl” echo my growing understanding of runaway rhythm as it pushes against the elements that bind together the sense and movement of the lines. Finally, the collection ends with the long, elegiac poem “A Natural Beauty”, which brings together aspects of the American South and the United Kingdom, and in which the rhythms are intertwined with memory to provide an extended release for the reader. The critical element, entitled “Runaway Rhythm 1900-2011”, defines the term “runaway rhythm” as a rhythm that is formed by various nuances of grammar, syntax, and poetic mechanisms to create minute separations between the movement and sense of the lines. In utilising this form of rhythm, the poet encourages the reader to engage with the poem by drawing their attention to the content and theme while simultaneously linking it to the structure. I will be focusing on runaway rhythm in selected works by Marianne Moore, Denise Levertov, Robert Creeley and discussing how it is still used by contemporary poets Adam York and Gerald Stern, and within my own collection.