Thursday, January 22, 2009

Chap Reviews

I have had the good fortune to exchange reviews of our recent publications, with the amazing David McLean. I share them here. First his review of my upcoming chap "Tinted Steam" then my review of his exceptional work "pusning lemmings".

Tinted Steam
by Constance Stadler
Shadow Archer Press

This chapbook marks the return of Constance Stadler to the poetry world after a lengthy absence in academia. It makes a very impressive and linguistically phenomenally gifted return to the poetry world.

In the laughing house
strewn in the plum dappled
peach tricking meadow,

from “Welsh-flecked Romance” which is a perfect poem that shows a Dylan Thomas style facility for adjectival use, and a true feeling for the beauty and placeability, the portability, of words that is the mark of an authentic poet.

“Isfahan” shows a knowledge of and sensitivity to Muslim history and culture that is unusual in a country which has a very dismal recent history of oppressing Islam. It lingers around the precincts of the name, “Isfahan” is one of many possible transliterations. It even quotes young Coleridge.

The atmosphere is captured in lines like

A solitary oud plucked by
still warm
ornamented fingers
still warm
sings a sad
uncertain song
to the scarlet dying sun.

(The Last Arabian Night)

The atmosphere in this and some other poems is Oriental, but not one of Orientalism, the poem tastes genuine, the attributes are not just dragged in for effect.

Other poems are genuine and immediate in their emotional impact

I cannot reach up your legs

and pull out the death in you

and I cannot

hug it away.


There is a whole deal of linguistic precision here, very fetching lines like

I believe in the sky

Elongated rectangles

In mottled, motley hues.

And trapezoids of geese

Protracting necks to

Cry their course

Of Pythagorean perfection.

(World Geometry)

On the whole this chapbook represents a stunning run that takes us from Romanticism and the East to modernism and the postmodernism that (if we are to believe Lyotard) both precedes and succeeds modernism). Since Connie is now definitively back, i hope this is the race, because if it's just warming up then we're all totally outclassed when she starts running for real.

pushing lemmings
David McLean
Erbacce Press

The title of David McLean’s new book, pushing lemmings would either seem to be effort wasted or on the cusp of cruelty. But the latter is where McLean’s poetic soul resides; on the barbarity inflicted by daily life, which naturally leads to an equally unremitting examination of its counterpart. McLean rages but with a singular, penetrative, deeply affected full out stare of ritual, nocturnal, and diurnal horrors. One can see this easily in a poem like summer sun:

summer sun children swim in the sea
they imagine they are happy
they imagine this is life

night in me sings a swimming winter shark to them
rises and strikes

What is so clear is that this is an insightful affected man who is lashing out at the certain abduction of innocence.

Often called a “gritty poet of the macabre”, McLean shows most eloquent sensitivities, philosophic knowledge as well as an array of rare poetic gifts. The lyrical, insightful question posed in culture shows all of this:

we are our antiphysis all of us,
like something out of Huysmans
with our being a denial of what
we are not -the animal - is passing
worth noting, the nothing
we are?

Or as in maybe, creation:

but the questions of why have no home
in science, which is poncy ontology
not manly metaphysics that rips gibberish like hair waxed from time’s
private tits

Any simplistic categorization of McLean’s work reveals a lack of immersion and engagement which is required by the reader, but the rewards are great. McLean in all of his passions has a biting wit, as in details about heaven

they often give details about heaven
without admitting to guessing, pretending
that it sounds rather nice, which it doesn’t
unless you actually like a boring life

Yes, this is a poet who has stared Life and Death in the face and all of its aspects. He questions, and challenges and howls, for anyone who has the courage to hear. In my blessed devils he tells us much, particularly why any sentient lover of poetry and, thus, one imbued in the questions that haunt us all ~ many to silence ~ must read this work of rarefied art. They will be changed.

I hope the blessed devils
And accursed bacteria
That live in me scratch ruins
On my hollow sounding bones
That the replete ghouls may read
A lesson of profoundest negativity
When they plow through the meat
Machine me and see nothing
Onside any of us, just death
And insanity dressed in night.

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