Friday, March 24, 2017

Message from the Memoirist Poems by Paul Pines

Paul Pines

Message from the Memoirist
Poems by Paul Pines
Art by Marc Shanker
Dos Madres Press
Loveland, Ohio
ISBN: 978-1-939929-28-0
135 Pages

Review by Dennis Daly

Tick Tock Tick Tock. Hickory, Dickory, Dock…. The various concepts of scientific time tell us almost nothing with their deconstructing conundrums. Nursey Rhymes do conjure up a sense of play and curiosity but then abandon us to the immediate. Only when time intersects with the eternal or the pinned-down specific does meaning appear, gleaned from the residue of the fiery crossover or the accelerated collision. Paul Pines, in his wonderfully illustrated poetry collection entitled Message From the Memoirist, uncovers precious pieces of memory from the dreamscape of mind and transmutes these quark-like particles into summonses that evoke the true nature of fundamental things. The spectacle or rather spectral results can be unsettling. Or exhilarating. Even funny.

In tracing his expansive memories back to the “time before thought” Pines, presumably dressed in a cowl and carrying a torch, leads us through a primordial darkness. Shades appear and vanish from our reach. A cock crows and dawn’s light drenches with creation all who have passed over the River Lethe again.

Early in the collection, in his piece entitled Toward the Creation of a Perfect Science, Pines considers the importance of memory to the present, as well as the positive attributes and the capacity for natural healing that society also assigns to forgetfulness. The poet puts it this way,

One forgets and then
When one remembers

It seems so important
Not to forget again

I want to say that
Forgetting is a merciful act

But when what is called
Feels essential to being

Who one is in the present
I am not sure

We all live through what
we see and don’t see

When older people lose a lot of weight, one of two things could be happening. Pines dwells on the positive in his poetic meditation entitled Yesterday’s Conversation. As time speeds up and the present merges into memory and archetypal moments the poet’s response becomes more and more physical. I sympathize. We’ve done this before. We can beat this. Consider these lines,

              I see myself shrinking
              Not like an old man
but slipping back into the young one
who ran through Coles Woods
the day after his wedding
and think,
                  “You may be in denial,
                  but look at you go!”

I will once again lift weights
put on a glove to field grounders
observe overweight guys
on the basketball court at the Y
and scream,
                  “I can run rings around these suckers!

In the end
I want to laugh all the way
to where ever it is
we’re going    

A Message from the Memoirist, Pines’ title poem, begins as a narrative with the poet’s persona reviewing the efficaciousness of a soon-to-be-given lecture on memoir writing in the early morning hours. Evolving into natural imagery until a central, a core template seems to emerge.  The piece introduces a subconscious nesting of fractals. Here is the conclusion that doubles as a beginning,

                        … what’s re/membered
                        is made whole

patterns from which
all patterns
are born

                        the field
                        in which we
                        are embedded
                        in us

the Genius
who begins to whisper in our ear as soon as our lips
touch Lethe

                        and we drop
                        into the

If we are not looking in the right direction our creative function from the “fields before thought” might enter our souls in such a way that the end result resembles possession, demonic or otherwise. One recognizes this possession immediately because of its referential patterns. The patterns complement what we already know. In his poem entitled The Field Theory According to Mel Blank Pines alerts us to the deep comedy hidden our origins. He uses Mel Blank, the legendary voice of cartoon characters Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Porky Pig.  The poet spins possession into a telling vignette at the end of the piece’s first section. Mel Blank’s son recalls,

a moment after

an auto accident
and two weeks

in a hospital bed
he remained

until a neurologist

asked him, How
you feeling Bugs?

and Mel answered
 What’s up Doc?

Ties between the world of forms and human kind are many. Symbolism plays its part. Pathos too. Toward the end of the book Pines places a prose poem entitled Remembering the Memoirist. He raises a lantern on the psychology of time and emotions embedded in that concept. The poet relates a narrative fragment that illuminates the beginnings of a creative life,

…Fifty years ago,
grieving my father’s death, I listened for messages to quiet
the explosive anger and desperation of a boy who found
himself homeless. In a tenement on 9th St. & Ave. B on a
winter’s day sans heat or hot water, maybe a few chicken-
hearts in the fridge, I sat with a Ouija board on my knees.
The furnace in the tenement basement, like the one in my
heart, no longer burned. The hood of my sweatshirt cover-
ing my head, I cried out to whatever voice might rise from
the cave within. Scared of what the future held, I framed
the question: What will become of me?

Many years ago Wolfgang Pauli, the famous physicist and pioneer of Quantum Theory had a vision of The World Clock, a contraption of wheels and pendulums supported by a large black bird and emitting pulses. The experience gave Pauli a deeper understanding of his scientific work and a psychological feeling of well-being. 

Pines references this World Clock in his poetics and Marc Shanker interprets it in his accompanying illustrations. As the reader pages through Pines’ provocative collection, led by his young persona in a hooded sweatshirt (no cowl this time) illuminating the awful truth, it strikes one that these pieces and their intersecting memories make up a clock not unlike Pauli’s. Pines’ poem Epitaph for Icarus III has this passage,

a dust mote
his presence

fills the space

and waking

through Time-

to land softly

re/minds me
to listen for

what follows

Remember to take the time (steal it if necessary), let this book unfold, and soak in the compelling and quantum landscapes of master poet Paul Pines.


  1. Great review of an even greater poet!

  2. Anonymous9:02 AM

    Outstanding review. Whets the appetite.