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Anselm Hollo

Anselm Hollo’s Notes on the Possibilities and Attractions of Existence

I’ve finished the first 100 pages of Anselm Hollo’s Notes on the Possibilities and Attractions of Existence, a collection of his poems written from 1965-2000. So far, I’m trying to remember exactly why I bought this collection. I guess it was because I like the selection of his poems found in Postmodern Poetry.

I looked back at what I wrote then, and I still liked the two poems that I wrote about, so I’m waiting for some subtle shifts in the poems as I get further along in the collection.

Probably the best, and the worst, thing about reading his poetry is that it has managed to drop my resting heart rate to a record low of 55, the slowest I’ve ever seen it, and that’s after two hours of rigorous exercise this morning.

It’s clear why he is sometimes associated with the Beat Poets. Even the poems I like best suggest some similarities to their work, like this one:

DEDICATION: A TOKE FOR LI PO

born in pa-hsi province
of szechwan
lived muchos años
at the court of the emperor

ming huang, but was banished
as a result of falling
in disfavor? with the empress
kao li-shih, & wandered about china thereafter

only occasionally attached to a patron
leading a “dissolute” life, addicted? to drink
writing the poems about the joys of that life

notably wine, & woman, & all the rest
& agitation of the sensational universe

came to his death by falling
out of a boat & drowning
in an attempt to have intimate intercourse
with the moon

one of those of
whom it is said:

“he took the charge well”

Despite the fact that I’ve never toked anything, Li Po was the first Chinese poet I ever read (in Pound’s rather poor translation, if you’re to believe
this)
. That encounter led me to take a Chinese literature course in grad school, which, in turn, led in so many directions that I’m unable to trace them all, but remember nearly all of them fondly.

I’ve been more addicted to poems than other forms of intoxication, so it’s not hard for me to identify with the stanza

came to his death by falling
out of a boat & drowning
in an attempt to have intimate intercourse
with the moon

My love of poetry hasn’t caused my death, obviously, but, beginning with college, it certainly had a dramatic effect on my life, mostly in positive ways, but certainly at the cost of other possibilities that I never explored.