Loads of Learned Lumber

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Donald Revell, _My Mojave_

THESE POEMS BREATHE an unusual air, desert air perhaps. They sometimes seem to be on a pillar in a desert, subsisting on locusts and honey, waiting for visions. Revell seems aware of the mystical tradition in poetry in English (one of the poems here is titled "For Thomas Traherne"), and the quickest way to describe them, I think, would be to call them modern variations on that tradition... but saying that suggests they sound like Kahlil Gibran, and they are a good deal stranger than that. Dislocation, surface incoherence, the sense of something incommunicable, a message of patience within urgency or urgency within patience...

The other cheek spat on her
O glory of the snow
Go with Mary
Letters of the law
Go with Mary

So ends "Ayre."

In the government of Heaven
The grass is truly higher than here
Stones are warm as a circus
The kingfisher's common name is Abraham Lincoln
My son leaves a mark on everything
A shore of pines and one of birches
Where my rough feet shall Thy smooth praises sing

So ends "The Government of Heaven." (The last line, Google tells me, is from Edward Taylor.)

I don't know why part of me is surprised by the idea of a stone is as warm as a circus -- what do I know about the temperatures of circuses? -- nor why part of me thinks, "Good God, he's right... stones are as warm as a circus." And suddenly it seems all but inevitable that, in the greater scheme, could we know all there is to know, the kingfisher would be commonly known as Abraham Lincoln.

Somehow, none of this ever seems like good old-fashioned surrealism. It all seems like discovery, simply and plainly announced. Or as simply and plainly as it can be announced.

No comments: