Saturday poetry pick: The Albertine Workout

In Wingbeats II, Melissa Kwasny says, “I am interested in the borderlands between poetry and traditional prose. I like to read the cross-breeds, the hybrids, the genres that do not respect traditional boundaries.”

I do, too. That draws me to Cole Swenson’s work as well as to Anne Carson’s. This week’s poetry pick, The Albertine Workout, is a poetry pamphlet from New Directions. I guess that makes it poetry–but it delightfully bends the genre. Reading it, I was reminded of both Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, as well as Carson’s Plainwater, which included similar prose blocks, or essays, of meditation, reflection, and inquiry.

This collection of essays (with 16 pages of appendices numbered 4-59–enjoy that math!) delves into the character Albertine in volume 5 of Marcel Proust’s Á la recherche du temps perdu and her connection to the real life Alfred Agostinelli, who was Proust’s chauffeur. I confess, with embarrassment, that I have not read any of Proust’s novel, but it is always a great pleasure to glimpse Ms. Carson’s mind at work and to travel at that borderland where ideas are freed from more usual forms and their expectations.

I feel a bit bad doing this, but you can read the poem here (without the appendices). However, I recommend picking up a copy of the pamphlet so you can enjoy the full text as well as the pause and its reverberation that a turning page provides.