To Sound Like Yourself

by W.D Snodgrass

Boa Editions, ©2002. 234 pgs. $18.00 ISBN: 1-929918-18-6

America has been a follower of W.D. Snodgrass for more than 50 years, and I always expect to see him at the front. The current essays are if I were a teenager I’d say “Amazing” or “Awesome”. They are amazing and awesome. How would you tackle the notion of teaching the inimitable voice in poetry? Snodgrass covers the subject with technical feats: meter, music, rhythm all our old friends beneath the line, but as one would expect, it is done as if for the first time. He uses poetry we have never heard, do not see as poetry; and some classics -along with poetry to read anew.

There is an entire section on Whitman “Whitman Selfsong,” with autobiographical information more complete than any you’ve read elsewhere. In this chapter Snodgrass talks of Dilemma and Doctrine, Synergy and Syntactics, Line and Rhythm, and a rich summation of the above.

In another chapter, “Disgracing Are Verse,” the author takes on puns, parodies, codes, jokes, doggerel, mistranslations, plus more. It is a raucously wonderful exegesis and covers substantial poetry in the mix.

Here are “Principal Characters In the National Anthem” (pg. 83)

  1. Jose Canusi – Mexican guitarist
  2. Dawn Zerlilite – Baltimore stripper
  3. Fatso Proudly- Stand-up comedian
  4. Lee Streaming – Minneapolis attorney
  5. Whose Broad – attractive amnesia victim
  6. Perry Les Phyte- Advertising executive
  7. Gallant Lee- 2-yr.old gelding; winner, 1966 Preakness
  8. Red Glare- Oriole’s short stop, 1931-37
  9. Orlando De Frie- Italian industrialist
  10. Homo the Brave-Gay wrestler from Los Angeles

Snodgrass begins the chapter with a riddle whose answer is “Little Red Riding Hood” and ends the chapter with a story (poem) from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. You’ll never read a richer amalgam anyplace anytime, nor will you learn more without “knowin” it.

W.D. Snograss is a man of enormous intellectual energy, the greatest of writers of our time, and long may he lead us into the many millenniums of the mind.