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Many Full Hands Applauding Inelegantly Darren C. Demaree, poems 8th House Publishing, 2016
review by Barton Smock
‘Covered in the inscriptions of bizarrMany Full Hands Applauding Inelegantly Darren C. Demaree, poems 8th House Publishing, 2016
review by Barton Smock
‘Covered in the inscriptions of bizarre timing…’ - from A Violent Sound in Almost Every Place #104
‘If today is the day to walk towards the sad, diverted
questions…’ - from All the Birds Are Leaving #35
Darren C. Demaree is a poet who carries in him a gentle tirelessness. He seems, by the worried exuberance of his verse, to want to know where he is that he might calm the distance in others. Audience is the loneliness he’s assigned himself. He recently signed a book of his for me and added: in Ohio in 2017. That book was, is, Many Full Hands Applauding Inelegantly. It is a book of both homage and future. A frantically pastoral book that moves as if each carousel horse could have a mind of its own while entertaining the idea that discovery may be on its second marriage. These poems achieve a tension that oddly is not reached by what the author withholds, but by what the author seeks. Into what does one engrave the gospel of change?
The book is made of three humanist parts representing Birth (A Violent Sound in Almost Every Place), Life (We Are Arrows), and Death (All the Birds Are Leaving).
The first, A Violent Sound in Almost Every Place, reads as an occupation of places otherworldly in the way it holds aloft the local...
‘...sure night of this republic,
wait for the room of the room
to hold a wider table
for our loose need’ - from #17
‘...Naked in late morning, each flapping wing
means something tremendous to a man
looking for any sign or invitation to be a creature.’ - from #75
...and in the way it possesses the acolyte.
‘...It is every
second of heaven, except for your need to hear your name said by God.’ - from #22
‘...I can hear my body all the time,
now.’ - from #28
The second, We Are Arrows, seems narrated by a straggling, curious invader.
‘...I want, at times, to know we are not precious to each other, and I want to know that this feeling is misleading me to a recoverable place. ‘ - from #17
‘Unfenced, we have imagined wrongly that every cornfield contains a proper ghost.’ - from #20
‘...If in the middle, the surrounding starts to panic you, then love, I suppose, could be an oven as well.’ - from #152
The third, All the Birds Are Leaving, asks the crooked whole of a person to make a map of her upward gaze.
‘...I want to know what happens when warmth is never known
& then sneaks into the bath of human experience like a toe & then a body’ - from #8
‘Our hope is the best forgetting.’ - #14
‘...We cannot fly forever because of our hammering want
to touch each other.’ - from #28
Entry, re-entry, and exodus...this book covers sacred ground. It is ambitious but not breathless, and believes in, and makes one worship beneath, its endeavor to put alienation out of reach. Demaree’s script hungers in the linear but does not starve the jigsaw. If we acknowledge the light at the end of the tunnel, we must also return to the shadow said light puts there.
It has been hard, of late, for me to read poetry because my son is getting older and his sickness, younger. I know my son is not his body, but his bodIt has been hard, of late, for me to read poetry because my son is getting older and his sickness, younger. I know my son is not his body, but his body is a crash course in logistical identity. I read Kaveh Akbar’s book, Calling a Wolf a Wolf, with its fleeing of density and with its character-driven desertions, and found proof of place. It kept me from sleep’s rootless sideshow, and called to me from its phone booth made of wax. I wrote this note to myself after the first read-through: if blood spoke, or saw- have I ever seen so much person?
I will not quote from the book here, or give guidance from this point, as sharing is sometimes an erasing. I do not think my own appropriations of the work would do justice to Akbar’s particular museum of curiosity and collapse. This poetry, I feel, is so humanly built from its generous amnesia that it deserves to be committed to memory in the ruin created by its author's forgetting.
I know I cannot tell my son’s sick body anything it doesn’t already know, nor healthy can I record for it the first instance of déjà vu. And yet, in the blood these poems are allowed to keep, and in their subsequent drinking of without, I find a spiritual safety. I see the body, now, and perhaps did before, as a language given to a busted vision from a full heaven. A shapelessness in need of Akbar’s investigations.
Set to Music a Wildfire poems by Ruth Awad SIR Press, 2017
“Will you die for an idea?” – Ruth Awad, from ~Let me be a lamb in a world that wants my lioSet to Music a Wildfire poems by Ruth Awad SIR Press, 2017
“Will you die for an idea?” – Ruth Awad, from ~Let me be a lamb in a world that wants my lion~
When so much praise is reserved for the universal, for a thing that touches all things, here is Ruth Awad’s Set to Music a Wildfire- a work that feels pressed into the page. A work that picks up the pieces, not after, but during. A work that pauses in order to continue. A rewriting of the detail’s bible. I love this book for its spiritual reportage:
~There was the broken teapot and two women, their clothes torn open, and an infant.~ (Sabra and Shatila Massacre / Refugee camps in Beirut, Lebanon, 1982)
For the way its observant foresight lets image stand:
~Tripoli rooftop. …The sea lipped its insoluble gossip to the shoreline.
The sky was a jar full of loose teeth.~ (Tracers)
The book is comprised of three sections: Born into War / House Made of Breath / What the Living Know. Veining through them is a man in a mask, a father, who wants face to leave with a name. Awad is there, it seems, to ghost each section with sigh and nail. From the ‘unbearably soft’ to an earth pinned by animal and animal’s passage, Awad cradles an imaginary fossil through the fog of idea and country.
~The map between us proof
I don’t know this world.~ (Interview with My Father: Maps)
Through interview and remembrance, Awad clays the voice of her father from a homegrown brevity and allows local, fleeting heavens their empty feast.
~Years ago when the power cut off, your family hung in the elevator like a half-swallowed bite~ (Elevator / Abou Samra, Lebanon)
~We are writing your anthem: the cursive of blood~ (A Message from the Guardians of the Cedars)~
Death gets no audience here, but does get a performance. Here, history’s flower is a torch. Awad is no bystander, but as a poet who can achieve the trinity of being there for her subject, for herself, and for her reader, she joins rather than invades.
I write all over the pages of the books I’m reading. In Set To Music a Wildfire, I wrote very little, save for this small aside: it was touch / told hand / to over / pack. Awad knows the stasis leaving causes, and her book seems written in a language one is elsewhere understanding. It is an untouchable thing. A handprint’s bliss. A within where place speaks to place. Fly gets its wall, and ghost its tattoo. Awad’s voice carries so much, and manages beautifully the recalling of echo.
Kelli Allen rescues nothing in her book ~Imagine Not Drowning~. Instead, she makes an acolyte of stillness. There is lightning, here, and there are glyph-obsessed waters. Allen says ‘we keep vigil for signifiers’ (from Ghosting), and it feels final, feels already saved. Why follow? What does a named creature understand? I can tell you Allen makes one feel a name is still being said somewhere in a book signed by its readers. The language in this collection goes where it’s called, some borderless upward, some nest made for mouth. This poet can on one hand etch ‘direction only makes us brave the first time’ (from Bravery, you said, is not what it used to be) while on the other tattooing ‘every night is a lifelong sentence about home’ (from Reformation). These are good hands to be in. As a poet, Allen knows the body as a map without a country. She outlines, yes, but knows one need not be dust and is a lover of those stomachs full of eaten chalk. Her disorientations are precise.
In the poem (We name the totems with every morning), Allen writes ‘…If I dive deep into the ocean / and find a camel, everything I know / will cease to matter’. I was wrong. She rescues that camel.
Absence is not a magic trick. In this book, there are enterings and leavings and a loneliness that says I am home because I am here. In one wildernessAbsence is not a magic trick. In this book, there are enterings and leavings and a loneliness that says I am home because I am here. In one wilderness, “Cleveland is one big hospital” (from No Children), in another, “The boar closes the distance” (from Damage Ready)
This book will do nothing to curb your addiction to trajectory. As for continuance, I wasn’t sure I could go on after reading the last line of the first poem. Marcus maps her land early.
You will question your body throughout. Body are you wanderer or are you deserter. Are you mouth or are you feast. Body have you devoured my eyesight. Every last bit?
Vastness is local. Ruin, a tourist. Pain a forward thinking journalist still covering the moon as made for man.
Bears are here, are moving in and out of a crowd’s exodus from a costume party for symbols. Some bears are not here, but are sick of being spirits.
I wish I could bring only what I need. But what of the other, dragged as it was for being necessary?
Marcus is a writer of both inquiry and finality. She has stones, not for, but from, the stoning. In the book’s last entry (Revival, Revival), this phrase: “Unspell me.” I was broken before I broke. This author, she looks back. This journey had a following.
Willis-Abdurraqib is a writer writing letters to a timeline of his unchanged address. In this, excavation happens on the clock and burial, off. I readWillis-Abdurraqib is a writer writing letters to a timeline of his unchanged address. In this, excavation happens on the clock and burial, off. I read this and I know what kids I want for the world. One body sells for nothing but makes it to market and a second body is kept from giving itself a hole for breathing. From this book of bodies comes a third. Dear body, skin is a documentary one is born with. Dear blood flow, I received your immediate silence. Dear soundtrack, there’s this movie that disappears but only when I watch it. Dear uniform, tragedy makes a short laundry list.
You need a body to keep you naked, get this book. It, will ghost.
in this, absence takes a life. RA Washington writes with a reckless attention. I was rooting for everyone's body.
had this reflection:
[mousing] for RAin this, absence takes a life. RA Washington writes with a reckless attention. I was rooting for everyone's body.
had this reflection:
[mousing] for RA Washington
history doesn’t repeat itself so much as curse the language it just learned. this is their there. escapist fare for those still fleeing. and I thought my hands were loud. one headset per foster home. shadow envies prayer. prayer has lice and ghost
I can live knowing it goes missing. but, it being here, toppled from its rightful place…I can’t live knowing there are two. that it has no plural. that I have to say it twice. that I am asked on my deathbed about deathbeds in general.
can we talk about bears. no, can you. that’s what I mean. I mean I want to listen. is there a bear I can learn about apart from the others?
can we say muscle memory is the orphaned narrative of a bilingual body? that a house is so clean its rooms disappear? can we say home?
the empty room released into the wilderness.
this book by Sarah Marcus. while you still exist.
“Find a midwife whose name sounds like a spell.” – from Do-It-Yourself
“…Water finds a way out. When I enter a room, I locate water.” – from I Didn’t Know
“I research how to remove a body: a strange erasure, an omen.” – from Fetching Water
“Her dismantled den. Her dismantled den.” – from Den of Thieves...more