Carefully voiced and measured, seamlessly thought-to and resourceful, even when occasionally relying on the most lavish and illuminating of dream logic, Bill Burtis’ Liminal doesn’t just re-assign or enact, tack on relevance, but instead delves into, unveils, the self where it’s most lived in and vulnerable, leading the reader just far enough in, enough out, so that all these accounts can stride alongside each other and gain clarity, humanely hold forth, in true and resounding fashion, so that even amidst all the clamor and doubt, things making or remaking a name for themselves, the routinely heart-rending and the nearly miraculous, we might not only gain some insight, into what usually escapes us, but be at peace with it.
As teenagers we would routinely trek down to Concord, Massachusetts. Where we would put away a quart of Brigham’s ice cream. Half carob, half natural vanilla. On the shores of Walden Pond. And then check in with Thoreau. Take measure of our idealistic skying with the stack of stones left by other pilgrims. One time even pedaling our bicycles the forty miles so we could sleep illegally on the hill-rise. And stir to the same dawn, different day, as he did. Early on, I learned Thoreau’s teachings were a kind of cheat sheet for battling all the forces that worked to destabilize the natural order of things. I even owned two slab-sized editions of his Journals. Which were only readable on a floor or a conference table. His words even physically a reach. A chair pulled up to some seemingly alternative world. And so, Ben Shattuck’s Six walks: in the footsteps of Henry David Thoreau, arrives at the door like a fellow wanderer. Bringing actual word. Of a mutual friend. Rewinding, leaning into, real time. The dealings of the universe. Till he too just takes up and goes. Giving healthy accounts of his own illnesses, woes. As well as his own happenstances against chaos. Shattuck eye-rays and surveys, re-stakes and sand-rakes. Serving up an open-endedness that borders on verse. With some live action history channeling that rivals the pros. But he doesn’t stop neither here nor there. He also sketches. Tech-lessly providing clips of his in-spirit trips with a pencil. Further drawing us in to the writer’s endless need to reassure and surprise, blur stories and reprise.
There’s the slightest of windows. Through which a poet’s shown the light. The rest is shadows. Worlds snowed in by an ageless doubt, grief. Yet more and more versions of night. It is here where the best poets gain a second wind. A third and fourth sight. That not only allows them to outwit the dark. Sit it out. But use it to reinforce all their words. Let them settle deeper in the page. Seek out some relief. The timeless releases in John Perrault’s Seasons of Shagginess do just that. They’re wiry and plenty witted. Made with the most renewable of energies. And though often drawn inward. To the matter of heartache and loss. They know when to turn over. Their work to the soil. Return to what got them here. Dig in. And give the lowdown. When it’s good for the soul. Just wise enough not to gain our suspicions. Or insist on sage status. Perrault not only gives us the read that is needed to get us in. But the guidance for when we want to get out
While the domestic drama dioramas (Francis Glessner Lee’s The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death) that Jessica Purdy dusts off and rescues for psychic evidence, clues, are seemingly small scale—she makes a standout case in her new pamphlet MITH for their grandness in both scale and in stature. These littlest of thrillers enlist lots of killer (I couldn’t resist, officer!) lines and skills, and all sorts of styles and lit-advancements (micro-crimes seen from more eyes than there are/is I’s to cram into them…) to not only solve and revolve what we understand about loss, and the fragility of life, whether lived badly or not, but also give our souls a good shake, chill.
Okay, so here’s the deal. For as long as I’ve read Sid Hall, he’s been leading me to believe his creative output was toned down and understated, this presence of mind long lastingly made into a pastel. So soft spoken as to be half-woke from a dream. A decibel shy of silence. Downplaying all the peeling away, the imaginative leaps and hard work that must have gone into them. But now with his “Collected Poems” I am onto his act. And can be certain that it all an imposture, a ruse. Finally, fanning away all the smoke, he and others have blown, to keep me from catching on to all his many talents, literary ambitions. Sure, some of the poems are steady of hand and modestly seen to, demonstrating a reverence for the classically trained, the sun dialed up. Or treated to an almost Eastern-like sageness. But others not only mess with our sense of time. But provide all the space we’ve been hinting at needing. Even tossing off these one-liners. And singing as if our lives truly depended on it. With Sid’s idea of rain always keeping the beat. His thunder--though distant, far offstage—thunder, nonetheless.