Wednesday, May 19, 2010


On the day before my brain surgery, (here's the post for that day, November 12th of last year, in which I write about what getting the book meant to me), I received in the mail a little book of poems by my friend the poet Geoff Young. It was exactly what I needed before undergoing some serious surgery and the prospects, which included the worries of others about whether my heart could take the operation or not.

I felt completely surrendered to the experience and whatever outcome there might be, and reading Geoff's latest poems in print reinforced that feeling even if they weren't directly or obviously about that kind of ultimate acceptance, they were still, it seemed to me, about acceptance.

That book, NOT TWICE ENOUGH, was a little self-published limited edition (100 copies) he did at the Kwik Print shop in Great Barrington in the Berkshires. Geoff spent a lot of years as a publisher, known for poetry books that no one else might ever have published, or certainly not the way he did—beautiful little books that are a delight to own as objects let alone for the almost always unique poetry inside them, including sometimes his own.

He retired as a publisher of the work of others when he stopped putting out books under The Figures logo, but he continues to publish little books of his own at Kwik Print in these small editions with one-off publishing names like the one for NOT TWICE ENOUGH, which according to the title page is published by Fountains of The Financial District.

And now, on the eve of the sixth-month anniversary of the brain surgery, the night of my reading last week with Ray DiPalma, Geoff not only shows up to support us, but brings with him a copy of his latest Kwik Print production RIM ROCK, published by Nomenclature according to the title page. Like NOT TWICE ENOUGH, it's edition of 100 contains brilliantly colorful reproductions of the postcard-size little artworks Geoff's been making in recent years, abstract designs he colors in with markers.

RIM ROCK is even more succinct and direct than NOT TWICE ENOUGH. Both books consist of a series of fourteen line poems, sonnets by my standards, and Geoff's, even if in the new collection some of those lines are only one word long, a format I can't duplicate on this blog because it won't allow me, or at any rate I can't figure out how, to center the lines, so picture each of these lines as centered so that the shape of the poem is like Mae West's, more or less:


I sense
less irony
in this

of brief poems
(a sentence at best)
once the engine
of narrative

and life's
big unhappy

center stage.

As often with Geoff's poetry, there are always lines or phrases that sound like you've known them all your life but have never heard before. Like these five lines that end the poem "Take Me To Tequila": "Only when/things fall apart/can you see/what they're/made of."

Brilliant. And true from my experience. And another example of the acceptance I find in his work these days that matches my unfolding consciousness as I grow older. Thanks Geoff.


Jamie Rose said...

Wow. Love that line from Take me to Tequila. I'll be posting it on Facebook (with credit of course).


AlamedaTom said...

Lal: The ending five lines are genius. Very reminiscent of the following stanza from the great Leonard Cohen song, "Anthem:"

"Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in."

And here's Leonard's take on it from an interview:

In another song you also say "There's a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in". It is not a very happy thought to believe that something will always have to break, to open a crack, in order to the light gets in...

It is a happy thought if we enjoy the truth. There is always something that will have to break. Usually it is our personal pride. A Buddhist thinker said that disappointment is a great way to illumination. Other masters said: "from the broken debris of my heart I will erect an altar to the Lord".

The idea that there is a staircase of gold and marble, which leads to knowledge is seductive, but seems to me that the idea of something needing to get broken before we can learn anything is a more true idea. It is my experience, maybe you can escape it, but I doubt it. Unless the heart breaks, we will never know anything about love. As long as our objective universe doesn't collapse, we'll never know anything about the world.

We think that we know the mechanism, but only when it fails we understand how intricate and mysterious is the operation. So, it is true, "there's a crack in everything", all human activity is imperfect and unfinished. Only that way we can have the notion that there's something inside us that can only be located through disillusion, bad luck and defeat. Unfortunately, that seems to be the case.

Lally said...

Amen to that brother (and sister)!