The Methodby: Rob Stanton
English? For the difference’s sake? As lingua franca? Coincidence?
— Rob Stanton, The Method
In the distance, I hear American swimming. It is a hot day, and we are circling the island
— Sasha Steensen, The Method
BOSTON IS A RISKY SPACE for an Englishman and has been since on or about December 16, 1773. The word “tea” seems charged even today, on a snowy January morning in 2013.
Boston is the nearest city to where my parents grew up. It is where they met, as high school sweethearts. Except their Boston is a different Boston — the old one, or the real one, or the outdated model — and I can no longer remember whether the American concept of the high school sweetheart translates to a British context.
Time was I’d tell a New England story about my moving to New York City at the age of 21, would talk about something I thought I’d found in the pages of Moby-Dick but not in Bleak House. In Boston, on a snowy January morning in 2103, I find myself explaining that I am an American poet.
I am travelling again on an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). I am no longer a Conditional Permanent Resident. I live in the Southwest, but not the Southwest of red rock, steep canyons, adobe architecture. Yet there are tempting confusions between the two as I wonder if Texan secession really differs from Cornish independence, from Breton aspirations.
In Boston, I’m not alone in feeling elsewhere. Transplanted isn’t the word; roots are more like routes, these days. But how, then, to process it all — residence, writing, the national?
Rob Stanton was raised and educated around Northern England and the English Midlands, though he now lives in the US. The Method (2011) is published by the enterprising, relatively new London-based publisher Penned in the Margins.
It’s not that Stanton’s biography matters, and yet his debut collection obliquely explores questions of transatlantic identity. Wallace Stevens’ sense that “the absence of the imagination had / itself to be imagined” serves as epigraph for poetic engagements with Belgian painter Luc Tuymans. Somewhere in the process, Stanton becomes neither British nor American as a poet:
Quickness equals precision (‘Paper has [already]
its own history.’) Gesture, expression, circum-
scribed. Page-as-scenery, formal, found. Collision.
The Method reads like an accordion and a set of nesting dolls: at its center, a set of 41 fragmentary sonnet riffs on Tuymens’ paintings; framing them, a series of Odes, two addressing sampling as a creative practice, and a quartet of quartets comprising four short poems (“Sift.Want.Into.Bits”), each of four two-line stanzas, arranged in a grid, two poems to a page.
Increasingly clear as one reads this collection is its interest not only in the constraints and sources by which “method” produces the poetic — “two shuffled contexts speak, & spark, each revo...read more