Friday, July 14, 2006

Big Men Speaking to Little Men by Philip Fried, Salmon Poetry,Cliffs of Moheer, Country Clare, Ireland. pages. 12.99 Eurodollars.

Review by Hugh Fox.

Let me start off with the title, Big Men Speaking to LittleMen. What Fried has done here is to take ALL-HISTORY, ALL-ART, ALLLITERATURE and somehow relate it to our Yankee-Gringo Here and Now. So get ready for a long swim in the ocean of World Culture. And because of Fried's larger cultural overview, his comments on the contemporary scene have a lot more impact and power. As in this poem Mauvaise FoiĆ¢ (Bad Faith):

"We are the tardy witnesses, but not the angels, of history. For us the grandeur is summoned and buttressed by a faith in facts,the losses religiously noted. We travelwith a bad conscience, as necessary as passport and money, a nagging ache,like a sensitive tooth the tongue worries.And everywhere we go the chairsworship in the empty cathedrals."(p.47)

He can't even get dressed without living through all-history:

"Naked I dream of clothing's prehistory, The hats that were given by gods to showMastery; a numinous aura, with plumes,Or crowns that were horns, and the long sleeves. Devised by the mountain folk who carried ,The lofty cold so close to their skin."(Getting Dressed, p.87)

In the midst of all this playgrounding around, though, there is a powerful message that contemporary Americans, by restricting and limiting themselves in terms of ALL-CULTURE, are losing all the refinements and extras that go with life on planet Earth and beyond:

"In a patina of green oxide with the world's heartbeat in his hair....the bodiless dance is always beginning...not even dust of our dust survivesthe death of worldsbut ecstasy,snippet in a teeming void,a curl of possibility,a tickling on the lip of Nothing....worlds are born with the lilt of a hair."(Dancing Shiva, p.28)

What you come away with after reading through Fried is that weare tiny, so lost in time and culture that we are barely here at all, and the only thing that makes any sense isn't any form of negativity, but an enthusiastic rushing into life/experience. It's amazing how Fried can take a golf-course image and turn into a sermon about cosmological existentialism:

"God comes along with the caddy cart and ah those charmed holes when the world is down to grapefruit size. I mean the whole juicy universe, no wonder our heavens are fitting better into the children's unborn pocket slater when one of them hands you a lovely marble it's hard with loss and inward with bubbles of constellations that tickle us as we lie on the greens supineon summer nights, a thoughtful bladeof grass in our teeth as we take in the bigness."
(Say It Happens, pp.60-61)
Not a book to browse through but meditate through like St.Augustine's Confessions.

Hugh Fox/Ibbetson Update/July 2006. Hugh Fox is the author of "Way, Way Off the Road"

Thursday, July 13, 2006

me thinks i see my father. Poems About Our Fathers. Glenn Cooper/ Michael Estabrook. ( Liquid Paper Press. PO BOX 4973 Austin, Texas. 78765. $6.

Having just completed a poetry collection about my late father “Wrestling With My Father,” I was interested to read this poetry chap “me thinks I see my father” by Glenn Cooper and Michael Estabrook. In Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” Hamlet utters the words: “ My father, methinks I see my father.” Just as the death of Hamlet’s father haunted Hamlet, death haunts these two poets.

Cooper’s late father seemed to be a hard man to love; with his flashes of anger, hard drinking, and fits of violence. And it seems that Cooper hasn’t escaped his father’s long shadow; a theme in his poem: “all right, dad, you win.”

incredibly, it won’t be so long
before I’ll be as old
as my father was
when he died. He may have been
an out of work, near-alcoholic
in the end, but at least he
had me and four other kids
to show for himself.
all I have is a large book and
record collection, incurable love
for a woman who doesn’t
love me back,
and these few

In many of Michael Estabrook’s poems there is regret on his part that he didn’t appreciate his dad enough when he was around. Estabook is haunted by his father while walking through Harvard Yard, pumping gas on a Saturday morning, or while nursing the wounds of his mid-life crisis. In “ December 2. 1999” Estabrook writes about his conversation with his brother concerning his father’s death.

“… But Todd and I,
like we do every year, talked about his being
Dad’s day; “ 36 years today. He’s been gone now
Longer than he was alive.” Yes I Know.”
We never used the word “dead”
when referring to Dad. Instead we say
he’s “gone” or “away” or something like that.

I’m not sure why, but I suspect
It’s because we really don’t consider him dead,
We can’t. We both know he’s alive still inside of us.

The physical bodies of our fathers die, but their spirit lingers on with their sons. Both poets resurrect their fathers and hopefully resurrect ours. Recommended.

Doug Holder/Ibbetson Update

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Another Woman Who Looks Like Me. Poems by Lyn Lifshin. ( Black Sparrow Press David R. Godine, Publisher. POBOX 450 Jaffrey, NH. 03452
( ) $19.

The famed Black Sparrow Press now owned by the venerable Boston-area publisher David R. Godine, has just released a collection by poet Lyn Lifshin: “Another Woman Who Looks Like Me.” Anyone who has had even minimal exposure to the small press knows Lifshin. Since the early 70’s she has graced the pages of poetry journals both obscure and prominent. I don’t think Lifshin can be grouped in any particular school. She has a unique voice that speaks to the independent woman, the carnal man, and the dutiful daughter. Her poetry is deeply personal, and peppered with beautiful, haunting and visceral images.

Leave it to Lifshin to weave a wonderful poem about hair. And in “I wear my hair long” there is so much more than hair there:

“to remember old boyfriends’
aunts making appointments,
telling stylist to cut it short.
in a flip. I wear my hair long
to protest against all the
shaved heads at Auschwitz,
against the threats of PhD
examiners to look more
professional and dignified.
I want it to smell of lilac wind,
want my old cat in its warmth.
I long to hang my hair out
windows to shy lovers…

My hair begs to be touched
caught in your fingers,
your teeth. It smells of lilies,
gardenias, some animal you
never want not near once
you’ve stroked it….” (59)

In the poem “The emptiness, Nancy says” Lifshin addresses the void we all seek to fill, and probably never will:

“most everyone
has it. You can’t
eat enough, hold
enough people
near you, can’t
drink or take
enough pills,
have enough
lovers and babies…” (178)

The poems in this collection cover the waterfront of Lifshin’s life. They deal with her childhood, her emerging sexuality, her relationship with her mother in her prime and decline, and everything in between. A quote on the back cover from the San Francisco Review of Books expertly sums up Lifshin:

“You might as well get used to it: Lifshin is here to stay. For me, she’s sexy. For women, she’s an archetype of gutsy independence. As a poet, she’s nobody but herself. Frightening prolific and utterly intense. One of a kind. Highly Recommended.

Ibbetson Update/ Doug Holder/ July 2006