Sunday, June 10, 2007
on Hal Johnson's Tango Bouquet --
Hal's latest work of poetry is a delightfully fine ebook with its full share of peaches and punches in all the right culty-places, called Tango Bouquet.
A few weeks ago, more like a month ago now or a little more, when I was back in Texas for the birth of jolly Sophie (who, btw, is doing great: I recently saw the video of one of her first smiles!--what an effort smiling is at first, and how rewarding!), I had the privilege and the great pleasure of talking a little on email with one of my favorite, most esteemed contemporary poets, Hal Johnson (also one of the strong minds behind Hamilton Stone Review)--charmingly, Hal's email contains the quote from Ronald Reagan, "Getting shot hurts."--um . . . So, the email-talk conveyed, among other interesting things, news of the availability of Hal's latest work, Tango Bouquet, which of course I jumped at reading--one never wants to miss something from the insightful, wry, and innovative thinker, Hal Johnson. He's one of the wittiest and most philosophically savvy contemp poets we have. Thus, having new work from him is always greeted by me with great anticipatory delight.
Tango Bouquet is a collection of work that made me realize yet again how fortunate I am--that folks of such well rounded and deeply appreciated poetic reputation would think to send me some of their finest work. . . well, all at once it humbled me and made me a happy, keen reader, yet again in life. I set to work scouting as I read for innovative modes, uses, rhetorical invitations to interact, to read as if alive rather than a passive mass of media-made clay, and to be a part of the text, to participate in and to roar aloud at the real matters happening in our moment, the matters this finely tuned poetic of Hal Johnson's always evokes in a combination of experience and sharp mindedness, a poetic that calls for, that insists on critical attention to everyday paradox and contradiction, insists perpetually on, a poetic that brings us sharply yet gently round with the sound of a "Hey!?" as well as a comic gleam of wisdom, even when wisdom is dire, as now. As such, always a pleasure to read and to question, to learn from, even when the poetic news is at its best DADA (when is it not so?).
Hal, thanks so much. & also for allowing me to share a little of Tango Bouquet here on Texfiles. BTW, Y'all, you can find a copy of this book at Anny Ballardini's Fiere Lingua anthology, which address I can't seem to fill in very well at moment (given the new Blogger-ways, but I will keep trying). Okay, here is what I've figured out--I hope it works: Tango Bouquet @ Fiere Lingua If that doesn't work, then hop over to Anny's Poet's Corner, and find it there.
Over the next week or so expect to enjoy some bits on Texfiles: I will be posting something here and there from Hal Johnson's fine Tango Bouquet. Reader(s), be full-minded and beware, be happy, be keen!
First off, here are two poems I find resonant:
From sodden clay
the road dropped
narrower but young
behind a wall
out of breath
a view in strange
of the highest
rise with fog creep
snow melt, making
out the words
the flagstone floor
the plastered-over fresco, some invitation
come on, admit that you’re hungry
the clinical light, the hot running water
in a glass upon the table
~ ~ ~
Landscape near a Landfill
Addicted to fog and roiling seas, to dark Moroccan streets
and scorching deserts, we wondered what she saw in him.
Obligate anaerobes mingle with pearly everlastings, and yet,
theory weary true believers produce more words every day
than wannabe muses dared to hope, black jobless figures
at historical lows. How many words must a man put down
before you can call him a man? Mom and pop therapists
convene in Decatur, Illinois—deep clashes of intuition,
bad news for novelists. Our steam engine, the microchip.
We hitched our star to a falling wagon, depending on
your point of view. Generous Americans dropping peanut
butter and jelly sandwiches on Afghan wastelands, miles offtarget.
Dangerously prolific, modernism’s project comes to rest
at last in a field of biblical prophecy, finally open to question.
* Poems, "Bouquet," and "Landscape Near a Landfill," by Hal Johnson