My brother-in-law tells me
often, poems once rhymed.
(from The Evolving Case for De-evolution)
The above lines are from the book Remembering the Body (Mongrel Empire Press) by poet Alan Berecka. The book, as hinted by these lines, takes on the preconceived notions of both poetry and life.
Dichotomy is the name of the game. In “The Priestly Poet”, Berecka writes of “Father Gerard” and “the poet Hopkins”, taking on the split Gerard Manley Hopkins must have faced in his life as poet Jesuit priest, the tension of believing in both The Word and in words. It is a dichotomy Berecka himself wrestles with in other poems.
Hopkins comes up again in “Throwing the Morning News” where he talks of delivering papers at 3 a.m. and how:
“In this darkness I turned from Nightingale
on to Kingfisher when my lights beaming
low, caught two blocks of taillights, grills,
bumpers, reflectors, hydrant markers,
and stray cats’ eyes. Jewels of light —
the spectrum given light — danced,
filling empty space. The creation
stunned me and I stopped
but not for long.”
There is a part of my youth that is forever awake at 3 a.m. on my way to work. I know the world of early hours. When one is moved to speak about them, it is not for long.
Berecka writes the kind of narrative poems that are a joy to read, real life leading to real moments of lift in words.
Back to dichotomy. Berecka is a poet’s poet, praising those who have influenced him, and defending the art as diplomatically as possible.
In the poem below, he is able to hold an argument against pure imagist thinking while sneaking in imagery into his narrative to take the poem into that higher level of lyric revelation the whole poem, and whole book, argue for.
This kind of thing is slick in all the good ways. Like a trick shot at a pool hall, you can’t help but applaud.
In Defense of the Narrative
for Rick Sale
Slipping past the desk, at times
he would stand in our beer-filled places,
a welcomed guest – a fugitive
from ordered space. He volunteered
for battle in our war and fought
well at my side that one night
when two imagists argued that good
poetry did not tell a story but created
visions that intrigued more than meant.
They held their own through the first
few downed pitchers, but when we moved
to the pinball machine to defend our
Miss Bishop, we humbled them.
With each shot they evoked Pound,
swore in Chinese and sweated
faces in the Station Metro,
but how could they win,
piling up the bells and flashes,
not the points, not knowing the trick
to scoring well was putting
the shots together to clean a rack,
earning the bonus, ignoring
the lights and playing the game.
p.s. So after much deliberation, the name of this blog will be officially changed this week to: The Friday Influence. Those familiar will know that this is a reference to my Friday posts. I will still post about various thoughts or books read, and always focused on the lyric poem for its intensity and ability to charge words with life and charge life with words. The change is aimed at achieving a focus for the blog and to keep people from having to type up my ostentatiously long, very Mexican name.
Also, The Friday Influence sounds like a totally cool hipster band name: you know, obscure, underground. You probably haven’t heard of them.