Sunday, June 11, 2006

Discovering a Poet

One of my favorite adventures is to raid the poem bin in a used-books bookstore. Small volumes of poems abound in these bins, and most of them have never been opened. Books of poems are always the first to be discarded, and usually the least regarded inventory with little attention paid to the upkeep of the books.

Yet waiting there are such wonderful explorations where words create new dimensions of experience, new insights, and explore deeper awareness of an elusive reality. One thing you know about these books. They come into being because someone loves words and the insights that poetic vision yields. My rule for choosing one book over another is that something must instantly grab my interest... a book title...a metaphor...a line....

...books like Glyn Maxwell's The Nerve with lines that tug at the imagination such as
Nothing that's been does anything but dance.
Nothing that blinked did anything but stare,
now being over, though the merest sense
of over is strange there.
The Structures of What Was

Or lines like:
The corners of our eyes,
cold and alert to missing them, report
a flash, and in the breeze
we turn our heads
to where the stars are quiet.
The Leonids
Leonids are meteor showers that appear to emanate from the constellation Leo.

Poets take us to new dimensions of ourselves and create new worlds from words colliding in new connections with each other. Maxwell sees the world differently, and his vision expands my world and my awareness. His is a world rich in structure, rhythm, flow, and metaphoric vision. There is economy of expression which always seems to find the perfect combination to generate new structures of meaning.

Coming upon Maxwell's poems in the piles and piles of discarded volumes was like discovering a parallel universe buried beneath crumbling constellations of words and letters. Here was a new sensibility, and my newly found windfall would take me many places where I could savor the work of an explorer of a universe that did not exist until Glyn Maxwell crafted and shared this miracle of his own making.

In his simplicity is such elegance that the lines continue to resonate long after the book is closed:

In the age of pen and paper,
when the page was a snow village,
when days the light was leafing through
descended without message,

the nib that struck from heaven
was the sight of a cottage window
lit by the only certain
sign of life, a candle,

glimpsed by a stranger walking
at a loss through the snow village.
All that can flow can follow
that sighting, though no image,

no face appear -- not even
the hand that draws across it --
though the curtains close the vision,
though the stranger end his visit,

though the snow erase all traces
of his passage through the village,
though his step become unknowable
and the whiteness knowledge.

Glyn Maxwell

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