Vidyan Ravinthiran at Poetry Magazine:
“It is easier to think,” wrote Keats to John Taylor, “what Poetry should be than to write it — and this leads me on to another axiom. That if Poetry comes not as naturally as the Leaves to a tree it had better not come at all.” Bouncing ludically onward, Keats is, in hiscorrespondence, at once the Romantic genius parading his licensed idiosyncrasies and the “camelion Poet” with no identity at all. This famous letter presents us with the drama of consciousness. Reading it, one agrees with Rae Armantrout in her interview with Prac Crit: “objections could be raised to a human consciousness being a unified thing. The present is something that the mind does. They say the subjective present is about three seconds long.” In comparison, Keats’s hotly provisional axiom has turned to marble, his moment of excited phrase-making will last forever. And it hasn’t palled, at least with me, for though we’ve learned cautiousness as to what appears to come “naturally” (especially while reading Armantrout; she makes you contemplate even the back of your hand with bedazzled skepticism), Keats never says that leaves arrive all at once, or without a fight.
Nothing is natural in the work of Rae Armantrout. Our words, gestures, and relationships are conventional, scripted, deformed — or outright produced — by, as she has it, “the interventions of capitalism into consciousness.”