Water & Power
Standard Schaefer

Pub date 7/1/2005
Paperback 84 pp.
ISBN: 978-1-568-86107-4
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Water & Power was the original title for the film Chinatown, and referred to the utility department that caused so much devastation to the Owens River. It is a fitting title for Standard Schaefer’s second book of poetry which has many thematic overlaps with the film. Drawing upon documentary materials, journals, biographies, Hollywood and the literature of the American West, he describes the landscape and characters of that terrain as quite distinct from the legacy of Walden Pond and its corresponding notions of individualism, which are so prevalent in American culture.

Schaefer’s “western” depicts the inescapable fusion between humans and nature, their irreducible co-dependence, and the social bonds between pioneer women ranging from frontier prostitutes to literary figures such as Mary Austin, not to mention some unlikely connections between Walt Disney and Philip Marlowe–both “men in powder blue suits.”

Drawing on the work of Charles Mingus, Igor Stravinsky, Frank Zappa, and Willie Nelson, he tries to capture the music on which the landscapes depend, and playfully channels the voice of Californian poet Robinson Jeffers, as if the great anti-modernist were alive today.

This is a portrait of the American West as seen through CIA sattelite photographs, accompanied by the music of West Coast Jazz and the European avant-garde composers who took refuge there, a homage to the rivers that made the West possible, and a condemnation of the corruption that made it’s legacy inescapable.

Standard Schaefer grew up in Texas where he traveled the landscapes of the American West with his uncle in a bus with elk horns on the hood. After moving to California, he studied at USC, where he earned a MFA in writing. He was co-editor of the libterary journals Rhizome and Ribot, and currently serves as the non-fiction editor for the New Review of Literature. Schaefer’s first book of poetry, Nova, was selected for the 1999 National Poetry Series.