Today's book of poetry: Hungry. Daniel Karasik. Cormorant Books. Markham, Ontario. 2013.
Daniel Karasik is a successful playwright and Hungry is his first book of poetry. In it, Karasik sets scenes with a playwright's precision and his voice is always razor sharp and clear whether he is being wry, coy, witty or wise.
The next poem
will be important.
It will speak
to contemporary issues.
Give a voice to the voiceless
and ease the plight
of the hungry is what
the next poem will do.
the hungry will eat it,
that is. The wretched
will wrap it around their insulted
harrowed flanks. All the injustices of the world,
being named by the next poem,
will rise, sleep-dazed and lazy,
to an assembly of the readers of the world,
by whom they will be spat on
and cast out. There will come a time
after the next poem when a silence
will fill the high vault of the perfectible
planet. All the man-made sufferings
vanquished -- all tribalism dead,
power a fetish of millennia past --
the writer of the next poem
my find himself, in the face of the global
triumph, not quite sure
how to spend his remaining days.
He may consider suicide,
or golf. Or he may
find the pen won't stop. If so,
the poem after that
will change your life.
Daniel Karasik is moving a lot of paint around on a very large canvas while he explores the basic dilemmas that confront us all. He asks big questions about life and what it takes to be a good person.
An Observation from the Window Seat of the Starbucks
at Yonge and Charles Streets
This style of gliding down Yonge Street
moves me to remember everything I like about
the way you move me.
The girl gliding past the window must think she's headed for a big day.
I'd watch you walk like that too, if it were possible now,
and feel happy about being an accomplice
to the parting of the Red Sea. Where would we walk, in that way?
First I'd show you this enchanted lane that's hidden by Front and Church,
lined with restaurants and a crunch of jazz
as you walk -- the most breathing gravel I've ever met.
Then we'd probably wander into strangers' bedrooms,
grinning; I'd try not to get conceited and obnoxious.
Finally we'd take our position
on the green patch of grass that is the point the world spins from; and someone,
perhaps remembering us from a cool March walk under a passing train,
would shout: Welcome Home!
All this and more
This poem, An Observation..., was the winner of the Toronto Star's 2004 poetry competition.
Karasik's poetry can make you feel slightly off balance in the same way that rapid fire Mamet dialogue can entertain and perplex. You are off balance but under control, waiting for the author to reel you back in.
These are confident poems, the kind that come from a writer who is thoughtful and surprising.
This Cormorant title is from a new series designed by Angel Guerra, the front cover is a detail of a painting by Pierre Coupey - (Notations 20 [As If]). Very striking books, and this one, by Daniel Karasik, given the chance, will negotiate with your brain until you submit to Karasik's will.