Monday, May 22, 2006

On the Way to NatureS

This past winter, going through a box of old photographs recovered from my mother's house, I came across a faded and cracking color eight by ten of the groom's party from my brother's wedding in 1971; the party, of course, included me, back from British Columbia for the summer. Not wanting to defame any of the other members of that crew, I've cropped it to leave just the guy you see on the left, the poet of NatureS about the time he began the first of the poems which make up the book. That day seems, certainly, quite a while back. Some friends who've known me only in the last ten years tell me that they can't see me in this photo at all, but I know for sure that I'm at least his more-revealed descendant, and every now and then I come across him when I'm digging into the language I (he could claim the same pronoun) still use.

For the reading last month, I actually thought I might make a photo mask from this image and wear it when I was reading from the older material in the book, just so folks would have some visual sense of the person whose statement and song they then heard. Perhaps for a future reading. But, for now, it's here.

Several have written to ask where they might buy the book. Thanks! It's available online now, with the convenience of a shopping interface, through SPD, and also from New Native Press. In Asheville, it's available from the Captain's Bookshelf at 31 Page Avenue, near the Grove Arcade, and at the Black Mountain College Museum + at 56 Broadway (each copy there and at Captain's is signed, if you're interested in that aspect of book collecting, and contains a flier from the Center reading in April or some other piece of cool stuff for the true collector). Malaprop's will have it at some point, I'd assume, since they've scheduled a reading in October, but they didn't have it as of yesterday. More about Malaprop's as the fall approaches. In the meantime ... how does it go? Yes, do buy the book, buy several copies, give them to friends! They'll make great gifts for the holiday of your choice! Etc.


Friday, May 19, 2006

Reading Tonight

Just a reminder that the Center is hosting another in its great series of poetry readings tonight at 8:00. Some of these poets I've only heard once (and I've only heard Emoke read in Hungarian), so I'm excited at the prospect the event offers. Should be fun, with perhaps a revelation or two thrown in for good measure.

Our poets are Glenis Redmond, Laura Hope-Gill, Rose McLarney, Will Hubbard, Emoke B'Racz, Thomas Rain Crowe, Ingrid Carson, and Chall Gray. Multi-instrumentalist Steve Davidowski, who's played with the Dixie Dregs, among other groups, will be providing music.

There or square, I'd say.

56 Broadway in exciting (at least sometimes) downtown Asheville.

Photos: Poets Chall Gray and Rose McLarney

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Saturday, May 06, 2006

Witnessing ...

There's a new post up at Eden Hall about a reading scheduled at the Center. The folks who produce WordPlay on WPVM (disclaimer: I'm one of them) have organized this one, and it'll bring together a great roster to witness about the political & social world - or whatever aspects of their conditions they wish to speak to. The poets who will join together for the occasion include Emoke B'Racz, Laura Hope-Gill, Glenis Redmond, Chall Gray, Rose McLarney, Ingrid Carson, Will Hubbard, and Thomas Rain Crowe.

The reading is coming up on May 19th. Doors open at 7:00 PM. There's an admission fee of $7, or $5 for members and students with ID.

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Friday, May 05, 2006

A Note on Jack Clarke

Jack (or, more properly, John) Clarke was a singularly significant figure in the circle around Charles Olson during Olson's years at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He worked with Albert Glover to develop the Curriculum of the Soul, based on Olson's prospectus, after Olson left. He was a Blake scholar, a jazz pianist, and, of course, a poet. I met him once, at a west side bar named Maxl's, where he was playing into the wee hours in the middle of the week, but I never had a class with him, or conversation of any depth. Friends, though, did take his classes, and thought him a man of broad and deep intellectual gifts, and a brilliant teacher. I know him mostly by his books From Feathers to Iron and In the Analogy - and both are rich and, at times (at least for me), challenging texts, well worth spending days and nights with. From Feathers ... could be described as a book in visionary poetics and cosmology, and speaks from a location whose coordinates included not just the work of Blake and Olson, but also, equally, the conversations of the Dogon sage Ogotemmeli, the Encyclopedia of Novalis, and ... how about the reflections of Ornette Coleman? If Creeley continued Olson's exploration of poetics on a practical level, Clarke pushed Olson's intellectual adventure into further territories, where it became his own.

He also wrote some fine poems. In the Analogy, published in 1997, after Clarke's death, a collection of more than 200 (nothing like any other) epic (yes) sonnets, is probably his defining work as a poet, but From Feathers ... , published in 1987, contains in its extraordinary notes a range of his earlier poems. Here's one:

Now Reason Is Past Care

The lovely sound of the rain
dropping from the eaves on to
the alley pavement with time
measuring the advancing thunder
makes me think of you as those
two extremes of nature, beautiful
& raging, calm & silent as the rose
yet loud & earth-shaking when full
of the storm you were meant to herald,
a siren says something must be struck
with lightning, a mere by-product
of the clashing forces, not to harm all
the whole town, you in your gown
at last secure from the renown.

Ken Irby hints at the scope of Clarke's project in the cover text for the book, noting that From Feathers... "is a rich and subtle poetics of world attention, from the closest parts of the self on ... We are given 'an historical grammar of poetic myth,' but carried far beyond Robert Graves' sense of that."

Far, far beyond.

Till now, oddly, there's been no resource for Clarke's biography or work on the net. So today I created a Wikipedia page for him, just a brief entry based on the note about the author at the end of In the Analogy. I hope others who knew him, who studied with him, who've read him, will fill it out over time and help make Clarke's work available to a new generation of poets and readers.

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