This is post #7. Every day for the entire duration of the National Poetry Month, I will try to post short write-ups about poetry books that I like.
Pictured here are three of the early chapbooks by Bruce Boston. I have most of his books, but these three are my old favorites.
Conditions of Sentient Life
Publisher: Gothic Press
To buy from Amazon
Conditions of Sentient Life is a one-of-a-kind collection of 44 poems and flash fictions on dark red text against gorgeous cream-colored acid-free paper. The intricate illustrations are by Marge Simon. I only wished that the stunning illustration on page 35 was selected as the cover art.
The first poem, “Stars May Rise to Hell and Back,” tells the reader again and again that:
…hunger has no mouth to sing…
The piece’s musicality is a paean to the apocalypse which comes in various forms in the ensuing pages of the book. From the hopelessness of “Future Past: An Exercise in Horror” which starts off with:
Assume tomorrow has already come and gone
and you now inhabit no more than a string of
to the emergence of technology in “Human/Technological Dimensions on the Eve of the Bimillennium,” which scars us to the point when we end up asking ourselves:
When did we
become so small
we can no longer
touch the moon?
The flash fiction, “Dream of the Burmese Gardener,” is a surreal account of how galaxies are created. Mr. Saketa, one of the lascivious inhabitants of a certain manor house, carefully fashions “the first planet in the universe to be composed entirely of dead aphids.”
“Refugee” is a tight, meditative piece about the subjectivity of reality. Oh, and it doesn’t fail to entertain with juxtapositions like: “the mayor’s beautiful daughter…or is it the chimp?”
Conditions of Sentient Life is beautifully capped by “Gravity Drives the Blood and Bends the Light” which declares that
…when we reach up it calls us down…
These lines ring in the mind, and they ring hard.
Publisher: Dark Regions Press
In the first issue of Kaleidotrope Magazine in a review of a bizzaro book, the critic Martin Earl offered what for me was the best take on surrealism in literature: “surrealism is confusing but ultimately understandable.”
This is true for Bruce Boston’s Surrealities, a 64-page book of poems and illustrations (Boston’s rendition of Rorschach inkblots) lending stunning insight on the human condition: the violence (Two Nightstands Attacking a Cello), the humdrum (A Life in the Day Of), the obsessive-compulsiveness (Surreal Wish List), and the exquisite madness (Before the Vilification of Hypnagogic Birth).
Surrealities is replete with ekphrastic references. In “Portrait of My Dead Brother with Burning Wing”
An immature boy in a sailor suit
refuses to leave
the beaches of Port Ligat.
The great masturbator
considers the obscene history
of the Third Reich.
From “Revealing Their Eyes”
Music -- possibly because its form is amorphous, its influence is intuitive, and thus the most powerful representation of the surreal -- is a common element in this collection. This music comes in many forms: from static to the cacophony of fear and panic.
The foreboding “Lizard and Wind,” the best piece in the book, tells of:
The lizards were everywhere
and so was the wind.
There was no way you could
keep either of them out
that hard spring.
All in all, Surrealities is a very important contribution to the literature of the surreal.
The Lesions of Genetic Sin
Publisher: Miniature Sun Press
An evocative broadside-length piece about mutation. Mutations of men, the dead, and probably the ones in between. “The Lesions of Genetic Sin” is a breathtaking long poem that has all the makings of a snow globe: deceptively lightweight, and once shaken violently, it reveals its beauty. Not to mention that it includes the most original of wordplays: “bodysalt,” “vile-urchin-argot graffiti,” and the sensual “corolla’s velvet violet insistence…”
Meditations of a Beast
Age of Blight
A Roomful of Machines
We Bury the Landscape