Sunday, May 20, 2007

Harrison and Davey

I’m a person who requires a regular dosage of the mental health
supplements, phanopoeia, logopoeia and melopoeia. Ordinarily
I’ll read a review(increasingly hard to find) or an advert more
likely, on the Poetics Listserv, in APR, Geist, BC Bookworld,
Poets & Writers, NYR, the Globe and Mail or even occasionally
The NYT Book Review which over the past two decades sees to
have completely abdicated its responsibility to provide critical
attention to poetry(what a sentence!), of a recently published
book of poetry. I’ll know immediately whether or not I need
that particular medicine and I’ll go seeking to acquire same.
Occasionally tho, poetry I never knew was available (or written)
will sneak up on me, surprising and delighting me. Such was the
case last year when I was staying at the Cancer Lodge(10th & Ash)
for five weeks receiving a daily zap of radiation to shrink the
colorectal tumour making it easier for the surgeon to remove.
I couldn’t walk very far(4 blocks/urban, a kilometer/rural), so I
was happy to find the Book Warehouse was only a block and a
half away. I’d walk over every couple of days to see what I
could afford or justify squandering my limited resources on.
I felt like I’d hit the jackpot when I found Jim Harrison’s
Saving Daylight and Frank Davey’s Back to the War on the
same day, both for less than either’s new price.
Jim Harrison is one of my favourite US American fiction
writers. I’ve been reading his poetry since the 60’s when his
first book, Plain Song, was published. Saving Daylight Copper
Canyon Press
(2006) is Harrison’s eleventh book of poetry and
the best yet. It’s brilliant, funny, true Buddhist writing in the
tradition of Snyder, Kerouac and Kyger. Without a hint of the
overserious pomposity of too many contemporary roshis, it’s
playful and profound. It ought to be required reading for eleventh
graders preparing to grasp the uncertainties. I want to quote every
poem, perhaps these two will suffice to pique your interest:

Cabbage

If only I had the genius of a cabbage
or even an onion to grow myself
in their laminae from the holy core
that bespeaks the final shape. Nothing
is outside of us in this overinterpreted world.
Bruises are the mouths of our perceptions.
The gods who have died are able to come
to life again. It’s their secret that they wish
to share if anyone knows that they exist.
Belief is a mood that weighs nothng on anyone’s
scale but nevertheless exists. The moose
down the road wears the black cloak of a god
and the dead bird lifts from a bed of moss
in a shape totally unknown to us.
It’s after midnight in Montana.
I test the thickness of the universe, is resilience
to carry us further than any of us wish to go.
We shed our shapes slowly like moving water,
which ends up as it will so utterly far from home.


Night Dharma

How restlessly the Buddha sleeps
between my ears, dreaming his dreams
of emptiness, writing his verbless poems.
I almost rejected “green tree
white goat red sun blue sea.”)
Verbs are time’s illusion, he says.

In the stillness that surrounds us
we think we have to probe our wounds,
but with what? Mind caresses mind
not by saying no or yes but neither.

Turn your watch back to your birth
for a moment, then way ahead beyond
any expectation. There never was a coffin
worth a dime. These words emerge
from the skin as the sweat of gods
who drink only from the Great Mother’s breasts.

Buddha sleeps on, disturbed when I disturb
him from his liquid dreams of blood and bone.
Without comment he sees the raven carrying
off the infant snake, the lovers’ foggy
gasps, the lion’s tongue that skins us.

One day we dozed against a white pine stump
in a world of dogwood and sugar plum blossoms.
An eye for an eye, he said, trading
a left for my right, the air green tea
in the sky’s blue cup.


I’d encourage you to request your local library acquire this
handsomely published work of genius and imagination.
If anyone’s reading in the next millennium, they’ll be reading
some of these poems.

Since the days of Tish magazine, Frank Davey has been one of Canada’s most important and prolific writers. Of all of those poets being geniuses together (Bowering, Marlatt, Reid, Hindmarch,
Kearns, Wah, Dawson and Matthews) Davey seems to be the one
with the greatest sense of composing a book rather than a collection
of poems. Back To The War Talon(2005) which took him thirty years to conclude is a recreation of his childhood during the second world war.
Concisely and precisely he limns his family in the convincing vernacular
of the time. A vivid recreation, one of his best, full of his understated
intelligence and wry humour.

1 comment:

fma7 said...

Night Dharma frolicks across with my churned up mind.
What an amazing amount of whallop youve compressed into your site. I appreciate the "pea under the mattress" subtlety you weild so effortlessly?
cheers (DITTO on the spell-check comment I read somewhere-nowhere-here )

cohen

cohen
the sweetest little song

st.ink

st.ink
his heart this big

Hornby Island by Goh Poh Seng (for Billy Little, who shared loved spots and fond friends)

Here on the headland by Downe's Point we case dreams to rise synchronous with eagles and gulls, all make-believe, egocentric, near to fanatical, else aim true to roam deep with Leviathan in the ocean's mind, free from perplexities and profundities such as bind the scheduled self Here is the arbutus grove whose trunks and branches tighten like nerves, twisted witnesses, victims of shapely winds which blow in always unseen, sweet from the south or coming cold from the north, from every direction the prevailing force of nature Wish I could emulate the arbutus slough off my thin skin as easily as these natives trees their bark from abrasion, disdain or design, unveiling the bare beauty of strong, hard wood beneath Over on Fossil Bay the rot of herring roe strewn amongst broken clam shells, dead crabs on dirty grey sand, exposed bedrock, thickened the morning air, but gave no cause for bereavement: these millions of botched birthings! And none also for the Salish, no open lamentation for a race almost obliterated without trace from their native habitat save a few totems, some evidences of middens, a score of petroglyphs of their guardian spirits carved a thousand years ago on smooth flat rock by the shore, of killer whales, Leviathans again, to guide their hunts, the destiny of their tribe. Having retraced them gently with finger tips, they now guide mine.

Halo by Patrick Herron (for Billy Little)

half of love plus half of half is halo and I don't believe in angels, no.