Sunday, May 10, 2015

Coring the Moon Selected Poems by Kenneth Frost

Coring the Moon
Selected Poems by Kenneth Frost
Main Street Rag Publishing Company
Charlotte, North Carolina
ISBN: 978-1-59948-482-2
232 Pages

Review by Dennis Daly

“The shining outlasts its day, “says poet Kenneth Frost in the last poem of this intriguing, posthumous collection.  Indeed it does. Frost’s life work hypnotizes with its dazzling mixture of surreal and natural imagery. His titles cry out specificity while his stanzas court universality.

Arrayed before us as a virtual archipelago of totem-like short poems, these selected pieces belie their presumably explosive birth with an elegance of light and dazzle. Each image connects seamlessly with their contextual whole in an artistic logic unique to this poet.

Early in the book Frost replicates the cold-blooded passion and insidious obsession of a protagonist bent on mayhem. He conveys an interlude of evil and introversion this way,

Angels could tell me how it feels
spending my life crawling between
the zoomlens of a reptile’s eye
and a spotlight heating up
confessions in a surgical
tube that a doctor wants to stick
        I wonder if
A mugger carries a good luck
animal in the zoo cage
of his lead pipe, rattling
his witch doctor’s spaceship
into the storm that he creates
and whether bums and rats pass in
and out of one another, one
with their underground highway.
A dead slave could tell, but won’t.
Neither will this telescopic sight.

Poets appear as peeping toms and escapees from shipwrecks peering into the portholes of the doomed passengers, living their lives as outsiders and observers in Frost’s poem Window-Washer. These spectators struggle with both the drudgery of their artistic lives as well as the by-product of self-knowledge that they’ve collected as part of their creative routine. I like this poem a lot. The poet concludes by reflecting on the nature of fame,

I concentrate
on soaping up
and shining glass
so the roulette
wheel of sunlight
won’t skid my head
around its track.
As I move down,
sideway and down,
I read my life
In the headlines
My printing press
Is slapping out:
“They didn’t know
That he was there
Till he was not.”

Visible only if you look closely, the tides of man’s nature alter in the fullness of the moon. Frost’s title poem, Coring the Moon, focuses on the dark creatures inhabiting earth’s singular satellite and their inextricable relationship with consciousness and wonder. Although the poetic style is much different, there is more than an echo of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl here. Frost speculates on mortality and madness,

… they fall into a trap,
a black hole, or nothing?
Coyotes run in circles,
Mad for the nothing of the moon.
They try on their ghosts
In the moon’s dressing room
Owls become raucous
And tear their spirits limb from limb.
The hole passes with a long howl…

Two strange poems juxtaposed with one another are Louis Armstrong and Whirling Perfume. Both mix and match different senses with surreal images. In Louis Armstrong you smell a garden’s perfume in the trumpeter’ notes and visualize a woman’s beauty. Listen to Frost’s second stanza,

How beautiful
the red-gold hair
Helen shakes
in the high notes
to wake perfume’s
transparent garden
into doorways’
magnetic light.

Whirling Perfume goes even further. It conjures up wolves as they might appear in Eden or the environs of Assisi. The poet puts it this way,

…lilac fragrance
blanketing the air,
almost choking it
in revelation’s
whirling perfume,
heart’s wolves
circling—no, not
animals, sight
clear as crystal balls
where you could read
Saint Francis
in their trance,
but high-pitched,
prophetic laughter.

Sensuality does not prepare mere mortals for the brutishness of worldly affairs. Man’s belief systems, religious or not, depend on a bit of luck for life to mean something and for goodness to attain independent significance and status. The poem Fallout Dreams deals with these philosophical considerations,

In the funhouse of the sensorium
I juggle pins
To entertain the source

with my humility.
See the light multiply, converge,

me  in its maximum security
I hang on to the rising

rabbit’s foot

Looking at the aged world decked out in its most lavish attire can be quite daunting. The poet’s persona, in the poem Autumn, Maine, stands knee-deep in a pond and reflects on the preciousness of the world he has known. The images here seem to be more anchored, more brisk. Notice also that here, as in many of these pieces, the sun glitters up at the reader from a reflecting source. The shifting gears of a truck suggest a change of perception. Frost spins out the ending wonderfully,

His knees stand on
the water’s light.
Echoes spin
the compasses
of shouts till they
on this outback,
ghosts of the heart.
On the lodge road
a truck shifts gears.
Raising his arms
above his head,
he dives into
sap welling up
a crystal cave,
swims out and back

Each of Frost’s poems set in this selected archipelago of passion and elegance sings out a cataract of lightness and ecstatic breath which spreads over and beyond the earth’s pedestrian topology—a fitting tribute for a consummate poet.

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