Saturday, December 13, 2014
Review of Tempo Maps by Daniel Hales
This six inch square poetry book with a matte photo of high branches against a tan sky on the cover, a CD in a plastic envelope on the inside cover and half the book being upside down from the other half would be distractingly gimmicky if it weren’t for the inventiveness and musicality of the poems: The title, Tempo Maps, aptly captures the themes: music and the mapping of the heart. The “map” is takes form and focus from the house on Miner Street in Greenwood, Mass, although the title of many of the poems use the homonym, “Minor” and the play between the key and the digger resonates throughout the poems.
These are the poems of a composer, synesthetic and sensual, witty: the first poem,
“: minor symphony (snow)” imagines the snow just so, and the chunking and rasping and for that matter the exercise bring the poet and the lover into, well, symphony.
No one doubts snow’s musical ambitions
We begin at opposite ends of it
a raw rhythmic chunking
you be the broken garage door
me where our drive colludes with Miner Street
a metal on concrete rasping on
until the music left is us
pushing the last of it into
each other’s shovels.
In a later poem, “lightning,” “a squeaky chair” lets him “tint the evening sky.” He is a certain fragrance,” the kind a man has who sucks up ladybugs then opens the filter to see them cocooned in litter. . .” This is a guy who does the vacuuming and turns the collection of dirt balls into song. In “more thaw” Hales turns meditative and aphoristic:
The sky is one, another since the death. Between sex and those. The ice
melts and the river grunts so much. Love is air and electricity every day.
This is just.
I really love “This is just.” Of course you get the declarative quality as if the speaker is simply signing off on his judgment. On the other hand, despite the period, the reader is left with the question, just, what? In “minor symphony (keys)” the wit of “the keys on the left passenger side
tire,” is balanced by a “bassline below it all,”and a refusal to consider his mother’s worry for “our immortal souls. . . Many prickly weeds daring to pull whole special of radioactive bugs endeavor to bite the hero.”
Other delights: “you can tell I’m a goy because I like the way matzo tastes. . .You can tell I love you because it’s raining again and everything is brushstrokes.” in a poem titled “everything.” In a poem entitled ‘wicks” the lovers find an eyelash in their food. “Maybe the cook was crying about something out back, I say and begin looking for silvery drops.
In “winding,” a kind of elegy for his mother, wind “says it’s mapping the air, it’s making contours where sky starts finding which branches have decided they’re ready to fall.”
Tempo Map has many pleasures but I think the chief is the wit of its disjunction and flow of language and image the poet manages despite it.