A HYBRID NOTEBOOK OF POETICS AND PORNOGRAPHIES

Pornography Disclaimer

This is a an imaginary diary of facts, confessions, or messages. This is a notebook of working but broken ideas, lines, images, notes on books I'm reading, writers I admire, and brief fantasies of language. Here unfiltered  all mannerings pseudo-private, publicized, ur-. Here I am art and unrevealed: poetic, political and pop. These are my moonlit rough beginnings and should not be taken literally, directly, truthfully, reliably, and none of it is legally binding. These lies are all choreographed, but only haphazardly. Beware.

17.8.08

STOLEN REVELER

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I finally have summer, which is more a feeling than a season. More morning sunlight without any ache, more hummingbird sewing the air, more eucalyptus hiding its bones in green tea leaves and yellow wood curls, the fringes embroidered by golden needles, more spiderweb and gleam, more crashing in the distance that isn't death, how softness arrives, more absence isn't. Blue.

I took Donald Revell's latest book, A Thief of Strings, out to the beach, not really sure that I'd read it. I loved the title and I love his third collection, New Dark Ages, which is mostly evenly written narratives and strict stanzas. Strings is an Alice James book, three sections, 68 pages. Lyrics. Visions. I read the book a section at a time, getting down on my knees to blow the Pacific, bodysurfing salt, his lightning and dark glare. Dug my feet in the sand and read some more. "The sky was very near" writes Revell, and I'm with him. Color is a guitar string. Sunset is the killing Adagio of our time. Revell, I think, is staring into the star of dew, and seeing 

"A prism that is
Cool as a leaf, cool
And vaporous as grass
When grass goes home."

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I'm really surprised by how much these poems stay with me. I love their deep but playful contemplations. I like the lines I don't understand, even more when they're paired with lines I do: 

"I want to go to the Garden of Eden to die. 
Happiness and Despair are of one mind. 
And the Devil is another evergreen burr-marigold gentleman."

I'm reminded in his work of Yeats' preoccupation with symbolism and myth. It's an oddly religious book, without being religious. Revell is at the core of something. The light transparent skeletons of leaves. White, rare. The soul of green, that is holy. "What is a good place" he asks, "to break down to die / To ask such a question / Is one heaven" In some ways Revell is interested in origins and human feeling. What drives us to experiences like love or spirit:


TO THE JEWS

I am the grass I dreamed I was.
Atalanta,
From inside a drop of dew
Comes the speed to outspeed you.
I have seen it.
Imagine something like a cloud, but like diamonds too.

The human eye began as grass.
In the first mornings, 
Water raced out of the air
Becoming Soul, who is the speed of things.
I lay my head onto the ground.
Is my dog a god because he kills a rabbit?

I lay my head beside the broken animal.
Our eyes meet. The world belongs to him.

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One of my favorite poems reminds me of the nature of seasons, that depart with part of us forever. "It will be a glorious spectacle" he writes in the title poem, 

"and I will be the only one there to enjoy it. No stems, no roots anymore, a glorious spectacle, and the meadows so many mirrors signaling with bright lights frantically. It has never been done." 

Beauty and death are never far apart, inside one another, twin.  My happiest poem in the book takes a religious holiday of a brutal death as its title and boyishly writes it. This is the entertainment of the dreaming self. We dream for ourselves our own dangerous, but good beginning:


GOOD FRIDAY

The clown is hurt between two trees.
His circus went far away, and they are happy there
With many animals, living by the sea.

Here, the low bushes are like little pigs,
And the flowers fierce, with great teeth in them.
I see no animals in the sky, but my mother does.

I see lights under the ground at night.
I hear them digging sometimes, and I know
One morning very early when the house is sleeping

Creatures no one has ever seen here
Will come up through the floors.
Their faces will be fires. Their fur will smell of earth

And of secret white things, buried a long time. 
If I go with them, I will never die.

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Friends and Strangers, steal it if you can!

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I've got one foot in the grave and the other's in my mouth.

Poetry Disclaimer

My work has been awarded the Katherine C. Turner Prize from the Academy of American Poets, a Swarthout Award, and has twice been nominated and shortlisted for the Pushcart Prize. My first book, A Book Called Rats, was selected for the Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry (Eastern Washington University Press 2007). I'm curating editor for the online journal of poetry: PISTOLA and my poems and reviews most recently appear in Massachusetts Review, Beloit, Ploughshares and RAIN TAXI. I currently teach writing and literature at Santa Monica College in southern California.