Monday, October 7, 2013

Crossing the Street By Myself, Phil Clore. A Review

On Amazon I read this on a front porch in Old Louisville on a rainy afternoon coming down from the fall gathering at Short Mountain. Couldn't remember where I picked it up, or why I choose to pack it as only one of two books to take to the Mountain. It deepened my sense of connection to see that it had been published in Louisville, and that Phil Clore had grown up in Kentucky… but after a 8 days with the Faeries it hardly seemed a surprise. More like, inevitable.

I liked the first few poems... a dozen or so into the book. Appreciated their brevity, their concision, and the more of them I read—the more the depth of the insight and cathartic charge packed into these seemingly tossed-off-the-top of the head observations impressed me. The tension that developed between the manifest form and their latent affective power--brought me to tears more than onc--a terrible confession to make in a review, I know. Stick to the surface stuff stuff you more readily put into words, that you can dissect and translate into critical language—even if, even better if.. it’s alien to the poetry that brought those forms into being. I could see the columnist, Michael A. Lindenberger struggling with that in the excerpt (?) printed as an introduction. Let me say here, that I hope if this should ever see a reprint--that execrable piece of embarrased self-undermining praise, not be a part of it!

I would have to write a much longer review to do justice to this work... to quote and compare early entries (and I think of them as I would entries in a journal), and later ones, where all the ... well, no, I was going to say, all the artifice was stripped away, but it's more that the artifice has become so perfectly matched with the content that you... 'I' ... trembled in appreciation BOTH of the content... some of which touched so closely on my own life I cringed at my own reflective self-realization... and of the CRAFT. It is not easy to write in this almost aphorist, self-reflective mode. Think: Dickinson. You do this (mostly), not by working over individual pieces, but writing and writing and writing failure after almost-but-not-quite, writing and writing.... and moving on to the next. And the next. And the next.

How else to you get face to face pieces (pp 66 and 67, dated with latter printed first), like those of August 10, 1998, and August 4, 1998. The two together are ... devastating. Let me quote

August 10, 1998

at some point
a mature man
puts away his toys
accepts limitations
of his sexual prowess
and realizes he will
never write the greatest
piece of literature
or become president
of anything

thank God
that hasn't happened
to me

August 4, 1998
my therapist

said that at age 52
I had finally
divorced my Mother


I'll date awhile
before rushing into
another relationship

Much of the poignancy here is knowing (by this point) that Clore is Queer (I hope he doesn't object to the word... I HATE the word 'gay'... it reeks of euphemistic apologetic to the hetero-normative world!), so the complexity here is worthy of Dickinson--with her subversive use (and misuse) of her contemporary’s religious notions. So simple in the first instance (really the second, temporally)... but the realization that gave the freedom to that confession, is held captive by the next poem, so you have to go back and read it again thrugh what you've learned from the earlier dated poem. The impossible ideal... which is no ideal at all, but no more than a freely open embrace of the possible, given that "that" ... hasn't happened yet. Beyond and beneath desire, is a loss that can be never be made good. And yet... which made possible such freedom as ever was or could be possible.

I could go on... poem after poem, how he takes a reflection of something 'out there' and invaginates an inward explosion of pathos, which yet, refuses pathos.

March 27,1999

out with a group of
young men last night
even the ugly ones
were pretty
one in particular
showed me attention
I now know
eighty year old women
wear rough.

In the last poem of the poem, he writes,

my little poems
are all grown-up ....

yes they are, yes they are.

You've created a poet... Phil Clore, probably one you only partly inhabit, no matter how you might wish to have it so... who I would have fallen in love with in a minute. Ah… but the poems, if you you, or me, your reader… know the difference. And honor that difference. Where can such love hope to go… but back into poetry? Between desire. And where it comes from. Which these poems are ... no, not 'about,'... they are that. They are that.

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