Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Beauty and Mystery: REPERCUSSIONS by Timothy Barcomb, Presented by Plowboy Press

It is the season of thunderstorms. Half a dozen times today, the weather alarm in the guest bedroom shrilled its "attention" signal, begging us to turn on the radio. But as long as I know to protect the vulnerable underbellies of our computers, I'd rather simply regard the bank of weather as it hovers across the valley, and wait for the flashes and rumbles.

An elegant new offering -- the third -- from Andrew Miller-Brown's PLOWBOY PRESS proves that a narrative of storm is not always the best net for capturing its power and resonance. Laid out in crisp Futura type on well-shaped pages of Mohawk Superfine, 5.75 by 9.25 inches (about 15 by 23 cm) and bound by hand in Fabriano Miliani Ingres, the book REPERCUSSION is from the pen and mind of Timothy Barcomb.

Before I go any further, let me explain why I've described the fabrication of the book in this way. Dave and I enjoy introducing fine press work to people who haven't yet thought about a book as an item of beauty and complexity. It's another dimension of the experience of words: As children we savor words spoken and heard, in school we learn to seek meaning from words printed and read aloud, and in maturity we braid our life experiences into the meaning on the pages. But to hold a book that's been designed for its own physical soul, as well as for its contents, is a delight.

The title poem of REPERCUSSIONS is the first of ten in this volume. It opens:
Clouds rub against each other,
press and climb
over one another.
Heat lightning flashes.

A simple stir, slam,
then quiet:

as if something slipped out,
the disbelief cupped.

And in its second half, the human beneath the storm clouds becomes ever more present. Each poem that follows braids both human and landscape. Often the phrases ripple with the storm's impact: "It could be any discovered nerve /standing them in the middle of the bed // half awake and screaming" or "echo of pebbles // cracked under the sole, / tripped over broken cement." Noises crackle against textures; the shapes of words on the tongue and in the mind's eye dance with the simple layouts on the pages.

I've borrowed a photo from the Plowboy Press web site to show you the start of this exploration, and I wish I could transport the sensation of the heavy paper wrap (covers), the geometric precision of the design, the quiet insistence of the sequence of carefully positioned words and stanzas. I can't tell you a lot about Barcomb yet, other than what the poems reveal, and the small but notable fact that while at Johnson State College (Vermont), he was a poetry editor for the Gihon River Review.

Then again -- perhaps you'll want to purchase one of the 150 copies that Miller-Brown crafted and Barcomb signed. Order directly from

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