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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Review: Dark Roads by Bruce Boston (pt 4: The U-Turn)

Notes on individual poems:
"Confessions of a Body Thief"
Within this new context, I read this poem as a far more powerful statement than I initially read it. Writers and poets are body thieves. The lone wanderer is a more dynamic figure than in previous incarnations: This presents his coming of age, the coming into the man of his own:

Flush with youthful vigor,
a burgeoning libido,
and a head full of ideals,
I promptly chose the latter
without a shade of doubt. 
Wielding my axe like a pen,
and often like a sword,
I defined a shaggy credo,
my generation’s song.
With the lyrics of another...
He lives as a rock star, Wall-Street accountant, woman, other races, but realizes
I am not the one to judge.
I have stolen other lives.
I’ve ravaged mind and limb.
I have left my spirit far behind
and forsaken my own name.
This has a nice resonance and contrast with the opening poem. But it also reads as a credo, a stance to demand to do his own thing. Which stands to reason:  How often have we thought we were doing or own thing only to discover that, no, this was someone else's thing foisted upon us?

For me, this is the collection's pivotal poem--not because it won a Rhysling award, but because it announced the poet's intentions (visible in earlier poems actually) of making a sea-change. That's probably the way of things as well:  We announce our changes in the middle of doing so.

In case you weren't sure, check out the next poem title:

"Scenario for a Muse Cycle So Far Off Broadway There Are Tide Pools in the Wings"
This poem backs up earlier thought with its conclusion (he=poet persona, she=muse):
he may excavate
another worm-eaten truth
only she could understand.

"The Star Dreamers" and "Tale of the Dream Merchant" and "The Wordmonger's Tale"
A trio of poetic tales about words and the dreams they induce. In the first, the cryogenically frozen dream (that word again). While the dreamers dream they seem younger than they are having lived a thousand lives, this time the dreamers are not doers but merely dreamers whose lives have passed them by.

The latter two deal with the dealers themselves. The first wonders why he's imprisoned for giving dreams, for easing lives with fantasies. The second understands that lamentably his words have been twisted into battle cries.
"Lesions of Genetic Sin" and "Pavane for a Cyber-Princess" and "In Far Pale Clarity"
These three are the pinnacle (or nadir, depending on your perspective) of Boston's pyrotechnic, jazz-like experimentations with sound and style--"so far off Broadway" as it were. These test your stamina to read poetry.  And why not?  It's not like every poem is quite this challenging. But this is where Boston picks up the gauntlet he threw down in "Confessions".

I and Bruce Boston discuss the poems here ("Lesions") and here ("Pavane" and "Clarity"). I will merely add that upon this new reading of "Pavane" it reads like either a writerly (muse and/or trope) or feminist challenge to writers who use the Cyber-Princess. The opening to "Lesions" reads like the above invitation to challenging poetry (apologies since Blogger won't let me simulate the original shape of the poem):
loosen your collar your tie
& let the bruised &
bloodied vocabularies
of the urban night descend between
your cool shirt & warm belly

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