Friday, December 04, 2015

Diversion: Poetry from Donald Revell, Tom Thompson

In the days of old, when I was in college, there was a profession called Computer Programmer -- which now is most commonly called Coder. At that same time, there was a mantra of how programming works, with the acronym GIGO: "garbage in, garbage out." The idea was, apply this in reverse and discover that if you want to have good output, you must write good code for it, and so on.

The same may apply to writing well: Read good work before trying to write good work. The rhythms and complexity build up in the ear and the soul. (Thinking about what I'm reading, of course, makes it work even better when I then think about what I'm writing.)

So I appreciated a diversion today into two engaging collections of poetry from Alice James Books. The first, the 2015 title from master poet Donald Revell, is DROUGHT-ADAPTED VINE. The old-fashioned blossom on the lovely cover misleads -- this is a collection that faces the power and terror of both life and death, in wonderfully tuned lines rich with imagery and narrative. Revell proves yet again that the heart of a good poem is the story it's telling ... framed in a well-chosen form and made vivid with haunted phrases that linger in the mind's ear. Revell even invites the reader to indulge:
 ... If I could turn
My head, I would see the heavy mourners
Holding coffee, stranded on the median,
In traffic. Lost to me now. Care to try?
One Chinese daughter. One imaginary boyfriend.
In the unfinished story, they live
Above a toy shop, one consummate lovely smile.
Tom Thompson's 2001 collection LIVE FEED, blurbed by Revell, catches some of Revell's forms, whether as a scaffold toward potency or as an homage to the leader. Thomson's storytelling also excels, with fresh new ground in a vibrant cityscape.
I will take the infant down
past the park to the sea -- where wakes dissolve
into moon's lead cage. That's our face,
love, buried in night's thighs.
Glad I picked these up today. Glad to share such good news, too.

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