Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lorca at Sevilla By B.Z. Niditch

Lorca at Sevilla                                                    (B.Z. Niditch)

By B.Z. Niditch

March Street Press

Greensboro NC

ISBN: 1-59661-169-3

65 pages


Review by Dennis Daly

These poems by B.Z. Niditch roll in at you like ocean waves with the incoming tide, one after the other, inexorably, reinforcing the poet’s internal imagery with an insomniac’s edgy persistence. Even the cover portrait of Frederico Garcia Lorca is repeated as the title page and again appears after the table of contents.

As a matter of fact, one of the poems in this attractive book entitled Memory is printed twice, first on page 16 and then again on page 64. I suspect this is simply a production error. Nevertheless, the logic of printing this particular poem twice does make odd sense, given its title and context.

Many of the poetic images also repeat, but with different twists and varying impacts. In the poem, The Disappearance, an anonymous child vanishes along with all connections to civilization,

the child disappeared

as the lasting echo

trembled in the wind

she or he was

as anonymous

as war itself

a town vanished

along with

an empty room,

an unmade bed,


Yes, the sunglasses especially; the smallest details of human life have vanished from the landscape. Not surprisingly, the very sex of the child is undetermined in this wartime mystery.

The persona in the poem Missing Person has taken to sleepwalking.  Madness has supplanted humanity as he looks forward to deal with the reality of death. Even the sirens of memory are powerless over this morbid meditation,

With sleepwalking


daily nightmares cut off

infantilized cries

of every motioning memory…

Under the Marquee uses memory as a time machine to deliver the human reality of seemingly past, but still anticipated, moments,

beneath an oversized dark sky

waiting up for you

expecting your flattery

to make us human

if memory holds up.

As in this poem, Dictation, memories dictate the future and sometimes the future is not very pleasant,

…the pitiable

are hungry and cold

among grim neighborhoods

the future is crowded

with written promises

of wretched memory

on stone tablets…

Another disappearance takes place in the poem Absentia,

Fixing his torn scarf,

clothing words

in an open notebook

for a season

of scattered winds,

he forgets the universe,

and disappears.

Sleeplessness, bemoaned throughout this book, finds eloquence in this poem called Sleepless Poet,

you taste

a murdered blood orange

in the cool air

trying to capture

the A.M.

after hours…

In Mondrian Niditch speaks of the insomnia of the painter as part of a way of life, almost necessary to his art,

your painting disguises

then reinvents

an edgy maze

on a blinded surface

with an orange wash

along Dutch parchment

reminding the marred canvas

of dismantled visions

in your sleepless limbs

shaped by solitude

and traces of reveries.

The fears, the secrecy, and again the anonymity are palpable in Niditch’s poem, Budapest. I like this poem a lot. It not only touches on his continuing themes but it seems to add depth to the collection as a whole.  Here shadows from before wartime proliferate. The “lumps of sugar” in the last stanza really work for me,

Since I cannot

wake you

our fears

are battlefields

of a distant green

and we like angels

fallen in to lumps of sugar

only speak gravely

when the matre d’ leaves

Off the Cape combines a number of marine images to make the conditional point of nature’s enmity to man.  Between the morning’s coldness, the impotence of sails, and the jelly fish I’m convinced. The reddened sun desiring my friendship doesn’t warm me up.

The last poem in the book, Waiting Room, is Niditch’s masterwork. Like a number of his nature poems it is set in winter, only this time inside a hospital perhaps. It is the opposite of claustrophobic. There are empty chairs, that feeling of absence again, corridors that go on and on, and mirrors. There are white walls inside and there is snow outside. A Dali green vase with dried flowers sits strangely there. The poem ends with drama,

wishing to escape

on any trolley,

with an apple croissant

when my initials are called.

There is no unscathed exit this time from that drab institutional universe.  Timing is everything. Niditch understands this and writes about it in this book as well as any poet I know.

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