Saturday, January 28, 2006

Codes Precepts Biases and Taboos. Poems 1973-1993. Lawrence Joseph. ( 19 Union Square West N.Y. 1003) $16.

I was introduced to the poetry of Lawrence Joseph by my friend and poet Lo Galluccio. Joseph is a professor of Law at St. John’s University and also teaches Creative Writing at Princeton University. Joseph reminds me of a Lebanese Edward Hopper especially with his moody cityscapes of his native Detroit. The poems unfold detailed, moody, melancholy, and unflinching, as Joseph paints compelling portraits of his past. In “I Had No More To Say,” Joseph recalls his tender dance at a tough, tenderloin-type bar with a touchingly perceptive partner:

“I told her about
Dodge Truck.
How I swung differentials,
greased bearings,
lifted hubs to axle casings
in 110 heat.
How the repairman said nothing
as he watched me
almost lose two fingers.
Although she did
not answer, her face
tensed and her eyes
told me, Don’t
be afraid, it
won’t last forever.

In “It Will Rain All Day,” the poet hones in on his old ‘hood, and brands us with his vision that brands him:

“I see a large crane lifting
a railroad car, piles of bald tires,
the two towers of St. Anne’s
where, in a corner, there are crutches,
body braces, and letters written
to acknowledge miracles. I want
all this to come to an end
or a beginning, I want to look
into the black eyes of the lone woman
waiting for a bus and say
something, I want my memory
to hold this air, so I can make
the hills with white hair
and the clouds breaking into blackness
my own, carry them with me
like the letters and icons
immigrants take in suitcases
to strange countries.”

Highly Recommended.

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update

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