Sunday, October 14, 2012

Plaint Poems by Richard Darabaner

            Poems by Richard Darabaner
            Edited and with an Intro by
               Daniel Gabriel
            Published by Dos Madres Press
            Copyright 2012


                        According to Daniel Gabriel's introduction to this relatively small but rather pristine
            collection of poems, the author, Richard Darabaner, was motivated by “the quest for knowledge
            and religion” in his life and work.  He earned a B.A. in English at Cornell University (summa
            cum laude;) an M.A. In English Literature at the City College of New York; and a Master of
            Philosophy in English at the City University of NYC, Graduate School.  He also taught at
            various colleges and high schools in the NY area.  In addition he has written several short           stories and a novel entitled, “Every Wound a Memory.”

                        Indeed the wounding forces in both love and religion are made manifest in many of
            Darabaner's poems.  The title of the collection “Plaint”is apparently an invented word to mean,
            the allision of lament and complaint.  His faith in God is shadowed with irony and indifference
            as well as an “ironic recovery of that love....and an ironic redemption.”  (Intro.)  As with Emily
            Dickinson's darker side, the shorter pithy poems seem to be intimate with impending death.
            Darabur committed suicide in 1985 in New York City.

                        In his poem “Desire” he writes:

                        (I am, as a poet, accustomed to consummation in despair.
                         I am not longing to desire the sand.  This is a commitment of faith.) p. 3

            For some reason, the sand, the object of the 2nd sentence raises questions.  Is it the sand in
            an hour glass and thus the sands of time; is it the sand of some ravaged Dalian desert; or
            perhaps the warm beige sand Edith Piaf was found adoring after her life as a powerful and
            moving scion-singer of France was cut short by alcoholism?  Maybe this sand is just sand,
            a metaphor for the earth, but closer to the ocean and its tides.  Anyway, it seems clear
            that he sees the fate of a poet to be “a consummation in despair..”  But “the renunciation of         sand”    is also a commitment of faith..  Faith, then, in what?  God, one imagines but can't
            be totally sure....

                        In another poem, more Biblical and stately in syntax, the author speaks of  Christ, “The
            Savior,” and says:

                        “Yet I have a heart of things unspoken
                          You turn again.
                          You would not hear me if I were there.
                          Only the thought of Him and you were resigned.”
                        “This is a great gift from Him to thou.”
                                    from  [Not Yet Have I Begun The Poem of My Heart.]n p 2

                        The poet moves from the first person speaking to perhaps God, or Christ,
                        and then moves to the thought of Him (Christ) as a resigning stance.  And
                        calls this through not prayer or invocation to be a “great gift,” using thou
                        instead of “You” at the end.  It is as if an absent or aloof Christ is possible
                        to believe through a thought, just a touch of memory, perhaps, and is then
                        a great gift.  A deft sequence.               
                        The woundedness of poets and artists (of faith) is apparent in “Out of the Maelstrom
                        and Intro the Hagstrom.”

                        “Wounded those years are
                           when one finds one's steps”

                        “Wounded those bodies brought to task
                          Should their memory worn plots of the Old City...”

                        “Wounded those ones who feel the wound
                          But not the body wounded,
                          Without the grey sky of dawn
                          To recall in a tiny cell of detachment
                          The steadfast calm of their agony.”

                        The last two lines are quite striking:”to recall in a tiny cell of detachment/The steadfast
                        calm of their agony.” This also suggests the poet's or seer's position – detachment
                        recalling, and the stoicism he keeps in agony, while surveying all pain and pleasure.

                        On a more lyrical note, the poem “Wave” which also seems more modern somehow in
                        its diction because it plays with the meaning of the word “wave,” and its possible
                        variants.  A wave could mean hello or goodbye, wave as that gesture of moving one's
                        forearm and hand back and forth.  The other wave could be like a wavelength or a
                        wave of water in the sea,  i.e. large ripple, etc. 

                        In a turn towards humor he writes:

                        “Don't wave at me with your mouth full
                          I don't know whether you're waving or eating. P 17

                        And ends more solemnly with:

                        “Not you but your wave I felt secure with
                        Your wave wasn't eating
                        You were
                        Your wave wouldn't let your brother hunger.”  p. 7

                        Thus separately the goodwill of the gesture or wave,  from the body its attached to,
                        ingesting mere food, but food necessary to prevent hunger, another state of deprivation.

                        It is so also, in the “light verse” of [I'm Not Touched an Inch by Your Salamander”]
                        which ends:
                        You assume I'm syncopated like the wind.”

                        Poems such as th3ese are grace notes in a collection of mostly short,. 6-10 line works
                        and a few longer ones.  His poem, “Echo” clearly speaks of reverberation of the                                                Crucifixion in a quite original way.  As if speaking directly of Christ in effigy:

                        “Without an echo of your former truth alive
                         Alive out of memoryless waking you come
                         to hold the rack of Calvary.”  p. 12

                        Interesting that he doesn't use the more direct and psychological sounding word,                                                “amnesia” but inste4ad, “alive out of memoryless, waking you come....”  to your
                        fate of death.  Christ is awake but has no memories of his life on earth as he takes
                        the rack of Calvary.

                        For those accustomed to more colorful scenery and objects and sensual modes and                               emotions from the “real world”or a real rather than metaphysical riddle in their poetry,                            this collection  may not suffice. But for any with a yearning to explore theological                              equations or dissonance within the framework of religious faith, I recommend this short                           volume of select poems by the late Richard Darabaner. He paints in greys and blacks and                whites with the occasional splash of sand or wave, beige or green.....

                        Reviewed by Lo Galluccio
                        for Ibbetson St. Press

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