Saturday, November 03, 2012

DIVINE Madness by Paul Pines

DIVINE Madness by Paul Pines

New York: Marsh Hawk Press, 2012

Pages: 64

Cover: Paperback

Price: 15.00

Reviewed by Pam Rosenblatt

With a beautiful, colorful, abstract cover painting by Douglas Leichter, Paul Pines’ DIVINE Madness deals with a lot of things: religion, mythological figures, death, life, communication and of course mental illness, etc. His book is divided into three sections: Book 1: The Serpent In the Bird, Book 2: The Absent One, and Book 3: Who Knows The Knower.

In Book One:The Serpent In the Bird, Pines reveals his intentions for the 64 page trilogy in his first poem, “1 ● It’s not about us”.He suggests what we as readers should expect to discover throughout in DIVINE Madness:

It’s not about us

but what

connects us

a world

forged of links

the parrot’s beak

in the lion’s jaw

divine madness

encrypting our sleep

like Puritans sniffing out

God’s fingerprints

messages born again

and again from the rubble

of our assumptions

what we listen for

as if decoding

the depth

of diamond

or entering a winter landscape

suddenly don’t know

what we thought

until a child


for a moment lost

reappears full grown

to tell us

we need not

fear death

if touched by

the consciousness

of the gods

in men

Pines has introduced gently introduced us to DIVINE Madness. He begins with “It’s not about us/but what/connects us” and ends his poem “1 ● It’s not about us”with his advice that “we need not/fear death//if touched by/the conscious/of the gods/in men”.

Pines suggests that like the mythological serpent who lives inside of the bird (as the first section’s title reads), there are “gods [whose ‘consciousness’ lives] in men”.Some psychiatrists would call this mental illness. And since this book is titled DIVINE Madness, the readers may think so also.

As George Economou blurbs on Pines’ book’s back cover, “With extraordinary daring and inspiration, Paul Pines has dedicated the art he has exquisitely crafted for a lifetime to the service of the divine madness that has always distinguished poetry from mere writing.” He also comments on how Pines “captures the universal analogy anew by ‘connecting us to the consciousness of the gods in men’ …. ”

The way Pines writes about this ‘divine madness” is intriguing,after all perhaps this contact with “the gods” is a gift, or - better yet - maybe it’s mental telepathy. Whichever Pines is implying, the analogies/metaphors are there.

Throughout civilization, there have been myths and legends about serpents being powerful, evil, and frightening to humans. Now, in 2012, Pines suggests that, like The Serpent in the Bird, there are “gods” inside the minds of men. How creativeand brilliant, yet how disconcerting at the same time.

DIVINE Madness is filled with metaphors, vivid imagery, and has a pretty consistent experimental structure. While an abstract poet, he uses similar themes with different twists throughout his book. One topic often written about is birds, especially in Book Two: THE ABSENT ONE. His love for these feathered friends can be seen in “20 ● Did Audubon”:

Did Audubon

In the woods around Natchez

think of birds

as aspects of

his inner landscape

a mockingbird

in the marsh

the secretive

part of himself

the pileated woodpecker

his relentlessness

and what of

the thrush

whose song

bends the spectrum

filling the pine grove

of his heart?

Did December’s long beams

touch something

that moved in him


which he could neither identify

nor tame

but knew

only as a shadow

at day’s end when brandy

staves off dampness

that accompanies

the dark

a shadow

that moves still in his drawings

of flightless wings

stiff legs and talons

in stuffed owls looking down

from mantels

decoys on shelves

or paneled walls

did he imagine these too

had their place

fragments of unrealized


known to him only

as shadows at day’s end?

While this poem is about mental illness or how “December’s long beams/touch something/that moved in him/unseen/which he could neither identify/nor tame/but knew/only as a shadow/at day’s end when brandy/staves off dampness”, Pines describes various birds so beautifully that we can almost visualize them: “a mockingbird/in the marsh”; “the pileated woodpecker/his relentlessness”; “the thrush/whose song/bends the spectrum”. Even “the stuffed owls looking down/from mantels/decoys on shelves/or paneled walls” have a place in his world where everything is “touched by the consciousness of the gods

in men”.

DIVINE Madness’s back cover has a blurb by Robert Kelly that reads, “[Pines] is the quiet sage who makes everything in his room a tender plaything.” He refers to Pines’ poem “20 ● Did Audubon”.

Pines appreciates birds, living or deceased. He even writes about “birds in an ice storm/as if nothing were/more important than/the direction of our intention” in Book Two: The Absent One’s poem “28: Grief strips us bare”and about “… reef birds/feeding on life beneath/the surface” in poem “35: Starting out from a Spain” found in Book Three: Who Knows The Knower. Pines’ birds seem to have a purpose, or a direction, and have a functional existence.

Pines writes how it’s important to know one’s role in life, and to accept it, as seen in Book Three: Who Knows The Knower’s poem “33: The sea beyond bare trees”:

The sea beyond bare trees

under a winter sky

extends to the horizon

highlighting branches

mossed by wind

skinned by salt air

golden finches at the feeder

blue and white nut-hatches

pecking at rind

He understands the role of salt

the geometry of shells

the bios of ocean

how marine life

melts into stone shelves

hollows out

submerged cathedrals

for worship crabs

where the eel of solitude

electrifies its prey

as armies clash wave

upon wave

in the agitation of forces

seen and unseen

he can watch

the gods make love

in the privacy of

his heart

and continue to chop the carrots

dice the garlic.

In this poem, Pines hasthese non-living or living things do their normal routines. The poem’s voice “understands the role of salt/the geometry of shells/the bios of ocean”. Why “he can [even] watch/the gods make love/in the privacy of/his heart” and remain so detached that he can “continue to chop the carrots/dice the garlic”.

As he writes in the final poem “46: but shall we leave it here” in Book Three: Who Know The Knower, “but shall we leave it here/with a drop of dew/on a leaf//stars snaking through/the heaven//the underworld/in the Milky Way//to navigate/the world as it forms around us/the universe”.

Here questions are raised that are probably thousands of years old like: Is a god, or are there gods? How did the world begin?Is there a heaven and hell? And will we ever find the answers to such inquiries?

In “46: but shall we leave it here”, the poet also asks:

the voice

that asks us

is it hard

to look upon the fear

in your father’s face?

who calls the ancient one


Paul Pines presents and deals with difficult topics throughout this read. And if asreaders we keep an open mind, we can appreciate and understand Paul Pines’DIVINE Madness.


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