For most people, let alone for most writers, it’s enough to deal with our own pain in this world. Even as we grieve for others, we remain central to ourselves, the first-person character of our own stories.
Baron Wormser is not this kind of writer. Beginning with the publication of his first book, in 1983, he has undertaken that most difficult of tasks: he has struggled to inhabit other people’s suffering and disbelief and confusion and panic. In his poem “The Suicide’s Father,” the grief-frozen father tells himself, “I have/Committed a crime but I am not sure/What it was./It is a crime of meals, presents,/Postcards, worries, lullabies.”
Let me tell you: such lines, in their simplicity, in their familiar, gut-wrenching details, are not easy to write. But this kind of clarity appears everywhere in Baron’s writing: in his poems, in his stories, in his essays. This is not to overlook his wit, nor his irony, nor his scathing intelligence. But even at his most ironic, as in his Carthage poems, which deal with a fictional, incompetent, and strangely familiar U.S. president, he finds ample room for sympathy and affection. When President Carthage notices that his women advisors “tend to be a little flat chested,/Probably from being so brainy,” we comprehend not only his foolishness but also his innocence. I go back to Baron’s poems again and again precisely for this reason . . . because they are incisive and exact and because they are deeply, viscerally humane.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Not only do I read with Baron Wormser at the Frost Place on Sunday evening, but I also get to introduce him. So I've been going through his poems and being happy about them all over again. You should get hold of his most recent book, Scattered Chapters: New & Selected Poems, which will give you a good idea of what he's been doing over the course of his career.
This is more or less what I'm going to say about Baron and his work: