Archeophonics is the first collection of new work from the poet Peter Gizzi in five years. Archeophonics, defined as the archeology of lost sound, is one way of understanding the role and the task of poetry: to recover the buried sounds and shapes of languages in the tradition of the art, and the multitude of private connections that lie undisclosed in one's emotional memory. The book takes seriously the opening epigraph by the late great James Schuyler poetry, like music, is not just song. It recognizes that the poem is not a decorative art object but a means of organizing the world, in the words of anthropologist Clifford Geertz, into transient examples of shaped behavior. Archeophonics is a series of discrete poems that are linked by repeated phrases and words, and its themes and nothing less than joy, outrage, loss, transhistorical thought, and day-to-day life. It is a private book of public and civic concerns.
In his eighth collection, Gizzi (In Defense of Nothing) continues his quest to renew lyricism, to find "a language to eat the sky" and "say goodbye" to the receding past. Like James Schuyler, from whom the book's epigraph is pulled, Gizzi is an acute chronicler of atmosphere, and many of these poems find the poet in uncertain emotional and physical landscapes, struggling to write his way into the future. "I wanted out of the past so I ate the air,/ it took me further into the air," begins the sequence "A Winding Sheet for Summer." Longtime Gizzi readers won't find many surprises in this tenuous, overcast collection "I've been here before," he writes in one poem but his ear remains as appealing as ever, and his paratactic syntax still surprises line by line: "You wonder summer's terabyte/ here on the terra forming/ floating and atomizing,/ giving over to shadow,/ then a muffler rumbling,/ distant engine, a little cozy." Stylistically, the collection is nearlyimpeccable but a bit weightless; its major struggles seem either intellectualized or kind of off-stage. At their warmest, Gizzi's poems offer genuinely moving confrontations with mortality, history, and tradition: "This hammering/ thing, life as I've/ known it, know me,/ is over. I might as well/ say it./ The apples lie/ scattered on the ground."