JIM McCRARY Presents Mini-Reviews of
Look by Solmaz Sharif
(Graywolf Press, 2016)
Last Sext by Melissa Broder
(Tin House Books, 2016)
The Collected Poems of Larry Eigner Volume III, edited by Curtis Faville and Robert Grenier
(Stanford Press, 2016)
Army Poems by Ken Irby
(Cambridge Materials. Privately published. 2016 )
As Ever by Joanne Kyger
Penguin Poets (2002)
Look by Solmaz Sharif. Graywolf Press. (www.graywolfpress.org). 2016. 98pgs.
Look, a collection of poems by Solmaz Sharif is not a book I might find and yet there it was at our local library. It is an extraordinary book. The text is something which registers. It stands by itself and for others as well. It is a smart collected reading of today’s military….anywhere on the planet. Ms. Sharif, if I may say that, does not hide her method or resource…it is right in the work for anyone to find. She will tell you what the ordinance is, what is that exactly which is not only flying but falling from the sky. What is exploding on and in and around you. And what that does. It is a moving and clear expression of a struggle which has become physically violent. And that needs to be noticed. Finally, I am an old man. Throughout my adult life I have read many and various responses to war and battle and violence. Few, very few, reach the level of intent and result as do the poems of Solmaz Sharif. I wish her well and continued possibilities in words.
Last Sext by Melissa Broder. Tin House Books. (www.tinhouse.com). 2016. 81 pgs.
Last Sext by Melissa Broder was on the shelf next to the above by Solmaz Sharif. Was that a suggestion from whoever ‘shelved’ the books. Perhaps. And Broder’s text is every bit as relevant and strong. Both these poets have found a way to relate a physical reaction to life’s moments. What might have reverted to the common “I did this and that” and or “Middle school sex exploration in fashionable poetics” in the case of Melissa Broder goes all the way towards writing through such experience. And although she does not, shall we say, mince words….what remains is subtle in its heat. The language is familiar and common in its selection. The heat, the shine, the strength, the funk, the piss, the puke. Take from it what you will. It is me, me, me to the end. And if that is your desire, here is a place to taste. And enjoy the trip as we used to say.
The Collected Poems of Larry Eigner Volume III (1966-1978), edited by Curtis Faville and Robert Grenier (Stanford Press www.sup.org 2016)
This volume of a decade of Eigners is 618 pages, 8.5 x 11” a full size reproduction of Eigner’s manuscripts. That, my friend, is a lot of work for sure. And it is such a wonder and pleasure to hold, to feel, to read and remember who he was and how lucky I was to see and hear him read aloud and to listen. And as well to see the poems on the page as he put them. And how that is with such intent. And today as worthy and relevant as always. These poems written thru his mid life and the mid of 20th century. His focus and style remained basically thru it all, it seems to me. And I imagine scholars are reading close to find the details which might enlarge my observations. So it goes. Here’s the thing though...we should all read and re-read Eigner. And we can. In any form and there are many available. But should you have a good library nearby check to see if they have the four volumes of his collected. Here is a sample of a long poem and a short text from Eigner. Poems are untitled with a date and number top right of page:
November 13 71 #584
The great impact of steam
where you act
something to stand up
the road dzzz
such principles of equality and
fraternity as had seldom been realized
in small cities and tribes
revived and applied
Or you can find this example:
November 4 71 #581
plenty of time in the morning
So much….so less….so slight…..yet…………….”change”………and if we can find it “plenty of time in the morning”.
Time well spent with Larry Eigner who is, can be said, a very important poet in USA istory. Listen to our elders. So it goes.
Army Poems by Ken Irby. Cambridge Materials. Privately published. 2016 20 pgs.
So he and I have a lot in common….with respect….although not in talent or skill. Yet we were both born and grew up white, middle class, Midwest…Ken in Kansas and me in Illinois. And after high school we both joined the Army. He went to SW US and south Pacific. I went to Europe. He watched nuclear experiments and I saw chemical and gas experiments….rabbits and goats killed with just a drop of something evil from the laboratories in Alabama. Ken I suspect watched the experiments left over from Manhattan Project in New Mexico. Here then are a few poems someone found in his archives and there is no indication whether he wanted them published or not…none given. But here they are and they certainly describe what I think was not an unusual reaction to life in barracks. We were all young, and horny and lonely and full of it for the most part. We lived 8-12 to a room and we knew each other and what that was. Where you went on leave meant something even if unsaid or untold. You scored weed or other guys or women or whatnot. Some to museums and some to brothels. Some to jazz concerts and some to Spanish beaches. And here we see all that in Ken’s early poetry…the graphic, grainy, smutty, glistening sex and violence of young soldiers. I don’t think there was or is any intention to showcase Ken’s power of poetic skills in these few poems. They seem simply an example and a rendering of what he did and went through while in uniform or out of it. No intent here to not respect Ken as poet...he certainly was that. He was also a friend who always had time to talk or yell or drink or drink more and that we did. These really early poems are, to me, now, not his best. Not the poems of the guy I knew. I guess you had to be there.
As Ever by Joanne Kyger. Penguin Poets (www.penguinputnam.com). 2002. 305 pgs.
In these days, late November 2016, here in the middle of USA we must take our comfort where we can find it. We know that winter is just waiting somewhere up north…gathering the wind and just damn hurt of the cold. We know there can be all kinds of winter...blowing, biting and discontent. A lot of discontent. You hole up and binge watch Shetland which seems to match the feelings here. And you read...a lot. And that is why now I must recommend the collected texts of Ms. Joanne Kyger. She is, without doubt , the best natural, organic, homeopathic remedy for whatever ails you...including politics. Especially politics. She is funny and is so funny that you cannot, I dare you, not laugh out loud when reading this book. And not just once. And she makes you think about what she is seeing or experiencing. You can ride with her into the dark night and feel okay about not only the night but the god damned morning of burst light and cloud and sky and deer and whatever the fuck else tickles her fancy. And dear one, she is all fancy and her laugh, even if you must just imagine it (and you cant help that) will set you free. Here is how:
Just waiting to go out there and boogie it up
In case anyone comes by
Everybody practices magic
Whether they know it or not
Oh I’m worn out
Just watching the cats
Lick their fur
I’m worn out
My hair is arranged
The boon of illimitable life is obtained.