Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Poetry with Mystery Embedded -- C. S. Carrier, AFTER DAYTON

It's been one of those years. I just donned my archaeological khakis and dug through a frighteningly layered corner of the office. Reward: a 2008 copy of C. S. Carrier's AFTER DAYTON that escaped me when it arrived here. Surreal, playful, questioning, dark -- this intense collection of 54 pages poses mysteries, quandaries, peculiarities. Dancing through the poems in the presence (or absence) of Slovenian poet Tomaž Šalamun, somehow an alter ego to either Carrier (born in Dayton OH, grew up in North Carolina, now in Northampton, Mass.) -- or to his actual birth, odd though that sounds. There are eight poems titled "Tomaž Šalamun (If You Exist)" scattered through the volume, and each one allows room for another set of questions.
Here's a short sample of Carrier's playful yet edgy propositions, from "Azalea":
I don't speak until spoken to,
until an azalea's strapped to my back. Where I coalesce
I butcher the Spanish azaleas of tongues.
I take pictures of barns and rockformations
along the azalea.
And this title too reappears later in the volume, a recurring madness of the mouth and page.

Although many of the forms are straightforward frameworks for Carrier's quizzical narratives, some -- as for "The Mind's Ordinary Task" and "When to Rest" -- explore placement on the page, balanced with ample open spaces.

Amazingly, after all this bold experimentation, the collection ends with a gentle narrative inquiry called "Lyric," of which I provide here the final three lines:
The ashtray blooms, smoke burns my chest,
chokes the moth. When the moth flies away,
will it take intimacy in its coatpocket?

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