Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"The Almost of Hope"

Joseph Ross' Meeting Bone Man (Main Street Rag, 2012) is a ruminative journey through the violence and hope of what it means to be human in the 21st century.  Presided over by the "bone man," a recurring character who brings a comic-macabre sense of death into the everyday, each section unfolds a particular part of the map of that journey. 

Beginning in Darfur, Ross vividly imagines himself and us in the tents and camps of the displaced, moving to the urban blight and graffito artists of America.  Further sections pay tribute to his mother, to veterans, to the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, to his own veteran father's gradual decline and disappearance into death.  What struck me about the book was where it ended, with a poem like "Rising at Dawn," the kind of aubade that is now freighted with all the grief and loss that precedes it:

Rising at Dawn

Rising at dawn
in my hushed house,
I see from the bedroom window
that the sky is brushed
with the prelude of pink,
the not-quite of light,
still surrounded by the
certainty of darkness.

This faint rose in the night sky
does not bloom,
rather, it gathers shape imperceptibly,
while the persistent night considers
the perhaps of surrender.

It is this most gradual approach,
this silent other,
that changes into
the almost of hope.
It is, of course, "the almost of hope," what Nadezhda Mandelstam called (after St. Paul), "hope against hope," that propels the poet of witness into the poet of survival, of faith in persistence.  Thank you, Joseph Ross, for your persistence, your clarity, your hope.

War: Anybody's Son Will Do

Thanks to Tim Musser for passing this along.  This documentary is nearly 20 years old, but the story remains the same.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Residuaries: Morgan Lucas Schuldt's Especial Unvanishings

Morgan Lucas Schuldt's obituary can be read here, but his "residuary" (the name incidentally, of one of his poems in (as vanish, unespecially) (Flying Guillotine Press, 2012)) resides in the three chapbooks and assorted poems he found places for in the world.

Schuldt's (dis)ability poetics is one of lyrical fracture, brokenness as neologism, archaicism as innovation:

Bc the body--
lopsed, scrawned, convolved--
is ex-why.

The nouns of normative syntax and nominative language do not suffice, to reach toward the language of the body, "lopped, scrawned, convolved" as it is.  Spellchecker offers "scrawled" for "scrawned."

Suffering from cystic fibrosis, a gradual deterioration of the lungs, Schuldt had to invent a new way of breathing words.

Lung ache.  Lang-ache.

Or, in "Becoming Regardless,": "If I could forget/this breatheathing"

With the inevitability of his own death hanging over him, in his early thirties, everything is shot through with the intense need to get it right, right now:

Like the heard words in the sounds--
every place we are
...............................is one we'll aren't.

--("Memento Mori") 


Days giving way like birth bone.
--("Becoming Regardless")


the pain
wd be with & w/ out form
........................usefulness longing
for how nothing in the word
(other than us)
--("Body as Go, Body as Believer") 

Such relentless invention.  Such reaching toward the ribs and breathing of language, our worst-best prosthesis, our open sarcophagus.

Would that Schuldt could have built longer.  And what would he have done, had he had longer--the question we ask of all struck down in youth--seems less important than to read what he did with the time he had.  So: read him.

Friday, May 4, 2012

I first met Amy King in 2005, at the PCA/ACA conference in San Diego, where we participated in a poetry reading.  Since then, she has been all over the map--literal and figurative--publishing a number of books of complexly textured poems which echo various experimental traditions--bits of flarf, collage, lyric, all mashed and collided--but somehow sound inimitable.  Amy King's latest volume of poetry concludes with "An Opera of Peace"; how appropriate, how right, to have the lines of this polyphonic piece voiced by so many other poets:

to hear my hairs whisper
what you mean
to the secret awareness
of turning the news,
the political drudge
into words of oil on skin.
Now my signature aligns
with your bible,
I'm carrying the baby
wren beneath my tongue
in the hollow of my head
back to you....