Sunday, November 15, 2015

Alien Abduction - Lewis Warsh (Ugly Duckling Presse)

Today's book of poetry:
Alien Abduction.  Lewis Warsh.  Ugly Duckling Presse.  Brooklyn, New York.  2015.


From what I can tell Lewis Warsh is in a constant dilemma.  He has so much to tell us, the dilemma is that he always sees at least two sides to the story.  He knows that every story has at least two sides, maybe three, but at least two.

Alien Abduction is a tall drink of water for when you are parched by language.  This stuff is cool, sweet, and comforts as it goes down.  Warsh has no pompous in him.  He drinks the water, shares the water, divines the water and then sprinkles it down on all of us just in case we are thirsty or need to grow.

Up Close and Personal

The Last Chance Bar is never not open. Don't come down
hard on me if you can't get in, and don't spill your drink on
the rug. You were caught in the crosshairs, but it's never too
late to escape. Yesterday's police blotter didn't mention your
name. You were born in the shape of a bird or a flower. You
write your name in the frost on the glass. There's no time to
waste, one person's desire feeds on another. People in prison
have a long time to ponder their mistakes. But aren't they
already locked inside their heads? The movie ended before
we had a chance to sit down. The pension fund is down to
its last dime. Sometimes the intangibles don't show up in
the box score. And maybe you wake up thinking you're not
alone. Maybe you think this is someone else's problem.

...

Today's book of poetry gets the impression that Warsh would never impose his will but he won't be upset if his poems do.

There are a number of excellent longer poems in this collection, including the marvelous title poem "Alien Abduction" that rollicks and rolls in a particularly quiet Warsh way.

Lewis Warsh is one of those men like Shelby Foote or Robin Williams.  Once they start talking, about anything, you are theirs.  It's a combination of erudition, humour and a fearlessness about not having to be certain.  Warsh would be the first to suggest that he might be wrong about some things.

These poems are a poet at work giving voice to his considered ruminations, Warsh is giving his voice room to contemplate.  In Alien Abduction Lewis Warsh doesn't seem to be suggesting there are any answers at all but there is sure is a lot to think about.

Promise

I was holding back something I wanted to say.

It seemed like if I said it I might hurt someone's
feelings.

I'm not saying you shouldn't say something
for the fear it might cause someone pain.

Maybe I'm saying that you shouldn't say something
without taking the feeling of the person into account.

There's no point in saying something about someone
for the sake of saying it.

You say something to somebody and that person
tells someone what you said.

You tell someone not to tell anyone what you're
telling them but they break the promise and tell everyone.

You can't assume that anyone, even your closest
friend, can keep a secret.

It was hard to tell anyone what you were feeling
if you thought they would tell what you said to someone
else.

"I promise I won't tell anyone," she said, but it was
just a lie.

You can whisper something in someone's ear and they
might repeat it to someone else.

It's not a secret if you tell someone so maybe it's best
not to say anything.

Best to keep everything locked inside, until it kills you.

...

Lewis Warsh takes not taking things seriously seriously.  You never get the idea that Warsh's narrator/poet self, is ever raising his voice.  These contemplative and invigoratingly confounding poems stream out from a strong, strong voice deep into exploration and understanding but always secure enough that you feel his confidence.  He rambles poetic in a Will Rogers tone of voice.

Warsh is less concerned with making specific points or charges but instead leaves the reader with a broader contentment/disquiet, an aura, a feeling -- and that is what poetry should do.

Five O'Clock Shadow

There's a private party,
and it's going on right now.
If you haven't been invited
there's still a chance that
the guy at the door might let
you in in exchange for a kiss.
But a peck on the cheek isn't
enough. Not in this climate,
where only the comatose
and the vacuous among us have
their day in the sun. My eyes,
yours, a reflection in still
water, what might have been.
Two grasshoppers copulating
under a rock. One step forward,
one step back. Another chorus
of Stachmo singing "Hello Dolly."
I'm going to call room service.
"Room service? I'd like a bowl of
clam chowder and a plate of mahi-
mahi. Hold the lemon." I walk
through the front door and out
the back without thinking
twice. Not only don't I know
anyone at this party, but it's like
I showed up at the wrong address
in a dress and no one cared.
Maybe I'll get into bed with a
bar of halavah and a box of cotton
swabs and call it a day, even
thought it's night and the
shutters are closed, all the
slipshod typists have gone
home and the major arteries
are backed up from Perth
Amboy to Troy, hair flying
over the Dead Sea so many
light years away.

...

Lewis Warsh is that quiet guy at the party that everyone crowds around just to hear what brilliant thing he'll say next.

Lewis Warsh

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lewis Warsh is the author of over thirty volumes of poetry, fiction and autobiography, including One Foot Out the Door: Collected Stories (Spuyten Duyvil, 2014), A Place in the Sun (Spuyten Duyvil, 2014) and Inseparable: Poems 1995-2005 (Granary Books, 2008). He is co-editor ofThe Angel Hair Anthology (Granary Books, 2001) and editor and publisher of United Artists Books. He has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council of the Arts, The Poet’s Foundation and The Fund for Poetry. Mimeo Mimeo #7 (2012) was devoted to his poetry, fiction and collages, and to a bibliography of his work as a writer and publisher. He has taught at Naropa University, The Poetry Project, SUNY Albany and Long Island University (Brooklyn), where he was director of the MFA program in creative writing from 2007-2013 and where he currently teaches. He lives in Manhattan and in Western Massachusetts.

BLURBS
Lewis Warsh is a poetry icon and a genius. His poems in Alien Abduction sing with a million inner and outer worlds that are both familiar and unfamiliar and speak of a new world of ideas and language that is timeless, gloriously happy and angry, and painstakingly beautiful. Warsh listens closely to everything, and in this book we find the mix of everything that makes up a life: Marx, Rousseau, sour milk, the songbook and the queen of hearts, mescaline, houses and bars and Paris. But in it too we find a life that is always strange because it is living and constantly changing and the eternal songs we must sing until the end of days and must thank Warsh for singing them first to us.
     - Dorothea Lasky

Nothing about Lewis Warsh's experiences is resolved, closed, or immune to his inner conflict. The reader follows him from an anecdotal phrase to a pan of the camera, from an often self-deprecatory meditation to droll truism, to astonishment at the obvious. He crafts his sequences so each relocation pertains, its simultaneity has purchase. Alien Abduction is as ambitious and successful as the best of his collections.
     - John Godfrey

"Rousseau said something about something." We lean in closer. We want to hear what this very intelligent and charming person is saying. But, no dice. Not only will we never learn what Rousseau said, we won't even know which Rousseau the poet meant. But no matter. We are so seduced by this voice that we follow it down endless corridors, onto street corners, into flittings of the mind that remind us at each turn of our own, they seem so natural, so un-created. That's a trick Lewis Warsh plays, a sleight-of-hand, never more deftly than in his most recent collection, Alien Abduction. Prepare to be abducted. And to enjoy every second of it.
     - Vincent Katz

Lewis Warsh
2/9/11
A Reading By The Overpass
video: bytheoverpass


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