Keith Nathan Brown has some poems at word for/word, an incredibly inventive poetry site. Infused in the visual and structural intelligence of these poems lies the fragility of our human existence. These are dark, beautiful poems that do not shy away from moments of clarity and straightforward language in the otherwise sea of chaotic fears and bone deep pain of life, all presented by molding language and form with a sense of geometric wonder. I thought of The Gold Bug Variations, the only book I've read by Richard Powers (and that was 19 years ago), and how math and language are the rudiments of our bipedal life that have continually developed in complexity while remaining to be the simple facts of how we express ourselves, see the world, reach out from our own skins. Brown embodies bothness--his nearly clinical approach to the mechanical aspects of language contains the soaring, anguished emotions of our hearts and souls. Truly remarkable- click here.
I'll continue with saying this: this is not language for language sake, which stains so much experimental prose, that hollow stuff that looks pretty or clever but reveals nothing. There is nothing juvenile in its showiness. Brown reveals plenty. It's as if he's tunneled back to the real reason that modernism sprung into existence approximately a hundred years ago: he turns language around, manipulates it, to better get at the exact opposite of cold, bloodless formalism (which is what experimentalism can become in the wrong hands, a new kind of cardboard cutout), turning it into the tool that it was always meant to be, a tool to open up the inner workings of our troubled, lush, unconscious minds. (This is not to say there isn't playfulness evident- there is. And playfulness has its place and purpose, but to only be concerned with play is an empty cleverness. And Brown emphatically is the opposite of empty. That said, I'm a huge fan of Alfred Jarry...but that would involve a lengthier discussion for another time.)