Creaturely Drift, New and Selected Poems by Allen Planz
(Street Press, Sound Beach, New York, 2010)
Eros Descending, Poems by Edward Butscher
(Amagansett Press, Amagansett, New York, 2010)
The Discourse Letters by Anselm Parlatore
(North Fork Press, Deming, WA, 2010)
That Nod Toward Love, New Poems by Graham Everett
(Street Press, Sound Beach, New York, 2010)
Silver Fish, Poems by Ray Freed
(Street Press, Sound Beach, New York, 2010)
Sharpsburg by Joel Chace
(Cy Gist Press, Astoria, New York, 2010)
Blue Edge by Susan Tepper
(Cervena Barva Press, W. Somerville, MA, 2010)
Having read, written, published and analyzed poetry for more than fifty years, it is with sincere gratitude that I have now been give this opportunity to comment on recent collections of some of the poets who have enriched my life. Allen Planz’s poetry first came to my attention in the early 50s. Joel Chace’s is recent. But both they and all the others considered briefly here are poets worth your attention. I hope to make the case on their behalf.
Planz, who died recently, is the author of several collections, the first, A Night for Rioting (1969). Although that book is long out-of-print it is a testament to the promise gestating in the young poet. Creaturely Drift has now secured a place for Planz in the pantheon of modern American poetry. Though he made his living mostly from a boat his life was informed as much by the sea as by loneliness everywhere on Earth. We have all suffered a great loss. Allow me to quote a sample of his disarming, powerful lines.
Some guys have girls, or pets.
I got gulls. I go no pets or girls
or guys. But on dock and deck I got gulls.
They want food. They want me.
There are some birds that if you stare at them
stare back. Or stare anyway, whether you notice
& dismiss them. Montauk gulls are tough:
when you give them baking soda
they don’t blow up like other gulls.
Today at dawn a gull grabbed my donut.
Then it took off
& circled overhead & shit on me
but missed as most gulls do when they try
…The stare of the gull is clear. It would eat
you. Starting with the eyes.
Also, from "Hauntings"
…This old man
over my soul.
When he bends
I lean with him,
trying to read
what he makes up
from a script
known by heart,
a love poems
begun fifty years ago.
long gone & the man
by his love for her,
the poem unfinished.
Edward Butscher, is the author of Method and Madness, the first biography of Sylvia Plath (reprinted by Schaffner Press) and Conrad Aiken: Poet of White Horse Vale, the biography of Conrad Aiken (University of Georgia Press) which won the Poetry Society of America‘s Melville Kane Award , His poetry collections include: Poems About Silence, Amagansett Cycle and Child in the House. His present collection centers around the struggle between Eros and Thanatos and though we all know how that turns out we are doomed in this hopeless effort. Rage is one way, more rage another. Eros Descending, with its precision and care for the language is his most powerful poetry to date.
As in "HALF MAST"
The dreams continue into summer
Disappearing borders trench
the swamp that men age into
when a century’s spine snaps.
What face clamps my cock so hard
it quenches the fever that never
achieves a barracuda leap?
The moon’s almond after-image dangles
from ceiling dust with an Oriental
stare, gentle but feline-aware, a web
of infinite lines threatening
hysteria, unbearable joy:
I am earth, universe, orchid cunt.
black and white prints, near sepia
from the American 40’s when June
Allyson and Doris Day palmed automated
kitchens that ejaculated lace-curtain
brides and doll’s spotless apron
to wipe the cream cum off floral
bedroom walls, when Kate Hepburn
could blueball you for hours
while pruning Joyce’s trellis
and planning her next abortion
rally, Bacall going down on Bogie
for the third time, although
ambivalent Bette Davis crouched
behind a couch in broad daylight
like an angry ingénue, knives
of delight in her white-gloved smile.
Who lies spent beneath me
when a tattered dog star slinks home?
I am earth, sister, membrane veil
you slash night after night.
…Hold still. Lie still. Be still.
…I am earth, daughter, chaos come
round to wetnurse your dead.
…Let me lick you clean of my filth.
Let me lap shut the next crack of song
that cradles only crocodile meat.
…I am cloud to your brick shouts
moss to your stone keenings.
…Cat face dawns at the window, meowing
forgiveness, a half-eaten mole
sacrificed at the porch altar where
the old evil walks, stirring me
erect. I let her in and recall
the ghosts of dolphin breasts
nudging him safe and awake, weary
as the Dali poster of translucent
sexless ladies haunting a parlor’s
desert air before sinking back
into this heaving half-life
between mirror and shore.
Anslem Parlatore, is the founder of Granite, a magazine he founded while attending medical school at Cornell. He also edited The Alfred Review and Bluefish. He also edited Ten Japanese Poets, Granite Press (1974). He is presently a practicing psychiatrist. His vocabulary, rooted in science, is without doubt the most unique and original in American poetry. With complete confidence and control his poems are masterpieces of erudition and emotion, leaving the reader both consoled and stronger. The Discourse Letters is a sequence of 50 poems inspired by Eugenio Montale’s “Mottetti”. Once the reader is familiar with the territory staked out by Parlatore the journey is a comfort, the images profound...
As in "#1"
Improverished, lassitude in modulated tones
of light, evanescent trivialities detailing
the insolence of an apparition.
For this I wait. For this a sheltered
language, a lure, the exhausted
lure of memory, you turning
to back into the wind, closing your
umbrella. Such lavish brocades
in memory’s mausoleum. The way
you were shaking it. Keeping it at a distance.
And again, in "#38"
Vast austerity of the dirge; hymnals, antiphonaries
& graduals, temporales, the Master of the Beffi Triptych
illuminated for grace, transcendence. Such pellucid
& fragile adorations. Ambrogio’s fresco cycle,
Ghiberti & Fra Angelico at Linaiuoli tabernacle,
the Dominican Effigies. All this bright, brilliant,
very luminous, unlike your darkness or a distant corner
of the universe, where roiling stellar nurseries sweep
lacy wings & eerie nebulae flare. Your darkness
is seeing almost back to the beginning of time.
Allow me one more: "#50"
All the twilights have swarmed over the psalms
nettles, thistles, they flicker through memory’s gauze.
This is not a final nocturne, more a fragrant
& intricate, shaded & cool anguish. You always
delighted when the new seed catalogs finally arrived,
Johnny’s, Skagit Gardens, Territorial Seed.
Yellow post-it notes suddenly blossomed along the pages.
alyssum, achillea, dianthus, nicotiana, nigella, scabiosa, echinacea,
gaillardia, lavandula,spires of snapdragons, sunflowers.
There will soon be clear, cool water running up their stems.
Graham Everett, teacher and founder of Street Press, has be at the core of the poetry scene on Long Island, NY .since the 70s. His colloquial style is disarming but he never loses sight of the purpose of poetry: to heal, to leave the reader whole. And, without pretense, with gentleness, honesty and care, he succeeds:
As in "The Basics"
I got a lot of shoes and they’re all black
I’ve taken to wearing mittens in the dark
I put on snow pants when I go to bed
eager to recall what good prayers can do
One moment floats into the next
Most things happen somewhere else
Hard drives crash from here to there
What goes on: a bunch of stories by now
(Observe how she does those things with her mouth
She’s not even playing house or buying real estate)
Drama’s what most of it seems – The rest is work
Even though it’s what I want to do, it’s still work
I’m focused on remembering how to walk, to turn
the right phrases, and time the words just so
And his surprises are effective
As in "Winter Blues"
The sun rises late, the day goes grey
By early afternoon huge flakes
Off the ocean melt on ground and car
When does love begin to make sense
Is still a good question. Hired on to ride
The road looking for answer and reason
I find false statements abounding
Night falls and everyone wonders what’s the score
But that doesn’t save us and that doesn’t bother us
The authorities know what we want
When we want two weeks in Amsterdam.
And, in "Winter Coming In Again"
For three days the wind clears the trees of their leaves
Gathering across the yard and on to the road edges
leaves could get raked, or blown onto the flower beds
if I could talk with the Northern winds
More my thoughts and actions on closing windows
turning off the outside water spigots, putting lawn
furniture under the deck, stored and tarped
At work, an administrative secretary says, “Did you
ever notice that a lot of people die this time of year?”
Then someone yells, “The copy machine’s jammed”
Newly paved, the last block home
redefined by fallen foliage
leads me to dreams of walking with you
in a Paris morning rain
Ray Freed, who died recently in Hawaii, was the Poet-in-residence at SUNY Stony Brook, LI. He has been writing poetry since the late 60s and has published 12 collections. His style is conversational and vernacular, a sure way to reach the reader. But he too knows well what poetry has to do. And he doesn’t forget:
As in "Colors"
The day hot and shirtless
the sky blue and clear
at the outdoor market
pyramids of fruit
stun in the sunlight
yellow and red mangos
colors of sunset and dawn
I peel the rind in one spiral,
bite into the deep orange,
sweet juice runs down
in the distance the mountain,
green and brown, rises.
Once in winter on Dune Road
I was a month alone,
Stepping onto a bus for the city
the driver asked “how far?’
but I couldn’t answer,
my voice rusted and unused.
In solitude I’m one,
with another a half,
with two a third
and so on.
In a crowd nothing of me remains.
Joel Chace has written a stunning collection of poems which are powerful, original and moving. He departs from the usual format and offers his poetry in paragraph form. That a poem should not depend on wide margins on each side the page seems obvious. To Chace’s credit, he seems very comfortable with the paragraph form. Moreover, his language is exciting and his images sharp. He has a good insight into the agonies of this world and writes with sincerity and confidence.
Allow me to quote in full the first of the untitled poems in Sharpsburg
After using a hammer to smash open the desk’s jammed roll-top, they found papers covered with sentences and the skeleton of a bat. Between physical fear of going forward, and moral fear of going back, there is a predicament of exceptional awkwardness from which a hidden ground hole would be a wonderfully welcome outlet. As our grandfather’s farm was being auctioned off, we sat high up in the dark haymow, trying to comfort his old barn dog. Syntax can be as lonely as anything you’ll ever see.
And the last untitled poem in Sharpsburg
Only then did he regret his embarrassment about walking with his mother. Thin layer with little railroad. The letter does seem to be his, based on the small amount of handwriting located in pension records. Compulsively fingering a pearl necklace, she turned toward us and back away, toward and away, just like a little old lady nobody wanted. So far as I could see, every soldier wore white gaiters around his ankles. Sentences are not emotional, while paragraphs are. Bach is the greatest composer in history, and so is Mozart. Absence or meaningless phrase, not ice. At dark firing has nearly ceased, and we hold our position and sleep on our arms all night.
Susan Tepper is the author of Deer & Other Stories, a collection of short stories and more recently co-author of the novel What May Have Been, Letters of Jackson Pollock & Dori G. Her poetry is highly personal, spare and taut. Leaps and surprises inform the work, and she commands a firm grip on the required tension throughout.
As in "PARIS"
A raincoat for Paris—
December and raining
you kept forgetting me
tramping narrow back streets
the buildings, gray air
flattening arms and legs
I bought a scarf to cover
where my neck was drowning.
And in "DARKENED"
Barbed wire braided your hair
pulled tightly its roots and
trees along a train line
once for passing through—
the forest had darkened—
signs came during sleep
camps were not for crafts or
–the photos came later.
Let me end with her "THAT"
Light formed concentric circles
all night he wanted to dance
the steep ridge
I was afraid of falling—
two horses trying to get through
a single opening
this wooden shank fence
along the highest trail—
that, and very blue along the ridge
clouds, a spring chill
Spokane and close to raining
always close to raining—
My mother cried a lot that season—
that, and a hard couch they stuck
in the middle of the living room
ordering me to sleep.
Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, The New Yorker and elsewhere. For more information, including his essay “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” and a complete bibliography, please visit his website at www.simonperchik.com.