Sunday, July 7, 2013


I love creative work that surprises me with its uniqueness. Especially work that may not get the kind of attention corporate sponsored creative work gets. Chris Mason is a poet and music maker whose work has been surprising me since the first time I encountered it back in the 1970s.

I've posted about him before, and have the cover of his last book as part of the screensaver slideshow on my computer. Most of his other poetry is challenging in ways that poets sometimes seem to be calculatingly trying to emulate but rarely do.

But Chris's latest is in many ways his most accessible and least precedent setting, yet still original in more subtle ways. And not so subtle, like the shape and size of the book—4x14 inches. The poems in the book (what most call a "chapbook" because the publication has no spine) WHERE TO FROM OUT (Furniture Press) are shaped to fit this size page, all with short lines and no poem longer than the page size, though some shorter.

The form of the poems is not unusual in poetry, long and narrow, nor is the form of the book entirely—each poem begins with a letter of the alphabet and every letter is covered, some with more than one poem. And each poem is about a place, which is named in the title, giving this collection a more personal and autobiographical feel than a lot of Chris's work, though it all is personal and autobiographical in some ways because his work is so deeply rooted in his unique perspective on language and meaning.

But as I said, the poems in WHERE TO FROM OUT are more accessible and therefore more familiar in style and approach than other work of his. Unfortunately this first edition has been published in an extremely limited run of only a hundred and fifty, and only fifty with the cover pictured above, the other hundred in plain covers. But if you can get a hold if it, I highly recommend doing so. You won't be disappointed.

I'll end with one of the poems in it that is least autobiographical and yet is ultimately so personal a take on our shared ancestral and human origins it feels like Mason was alive in that ancient past and has left this record of it for us:

 Pinnacle Point Cave
     Southern Coast
       South Africa
                years before now

Gather mussels, snails,
     shrimp, seaweed,
grab catfish, turtles,
     eat till you
drop.  Make marks to track
     the tide.  Fish,
shellfish oils make your
     brain grow big.
Get smart down by the
     water, then
walk north, past the hot
with no hair to where
     the hairy
elephants walk through
     the deep snow.
Meet some people there.
     Kill the guys.
Bring girls with to kiss
     and fuck.  Mix
blood, brain, bone.  Who were
     those guys?  Walk.

1 comment:

-K- said...

"...Get smart down by the
water, then
walk north,..."

At first I couldn't say why I thought these were the most enjoyable lines. Now I think its because its a summary of Homo Sapien life.