Macgregor Card’s first name is Macgregor. Just stop for a second and think how cool that is. It suggests a kind of inborn gift for names, which extends to his legendary journal, The Germ—one of the last print journals to matter before print got precious and luxe—and continues with his debut full-length collection, Duties of an English Foreign Secretary, winner of the 2009 Fence Modern Poets Prize.
Besides being one of the best names for a book of poems ever, Macgregor’s title carries a whole theory of poetry in miniature. Isn’t it one of the poet’s duties to treat English like it’s foreign? To make the mother tongue feel new and strange? Shelley called poets the unacknowledged legislators of the world, but I’m inclined to Macgregor’s view that they’re more secretary than CEO, transcribing the minutes that get into the file marked History.
Many of the poems are made from lines Macgregor’s exchanged over the years with the poet Karen Weiser, so there’s an element of correspondence, too—poetry as a product of friendship and social exchange. And the fact that the title’s borrowed from Sydney Dobbell, an obscure Victorian Spasmodic, points to a certain light-handed responsibility to the past—poet as rememberer and recoverer, amnesia’s wordy enemy. People, do your duty to la lengua and please join me in welcoming Macgregor Card.
20 hours ago