At the Fair by Tom Clark
|At the Fair||Tom Clark||BlazeVOX [books]|
I've known and read Tom Clark for almost half-a-century as a master of many genres: a writer of plays, biographies, novels; as an editor and critic — but always foremost, as a poet. At the Fair gives glimpses of this poet peering through the eyes of his reflection in the mirror of time and reporting on the memories of that image. Part autobiography of the author in shards; part philosophy of atmosphere and thought; part natural history of air, land and water; part defense of the local; part the literate writer at work, translating, being distracted by the logic and beauty of language: this book, which I read straight through, is a tribute to a lifelong addiction: a mutable one-handed keep-awake smack in the forest of loss. One's hat is raised as observation passes.
Remembering his first glimmers of vocation as a boy in power-charged mid-century Chicago, Tom Clark has given us some of the most beautiful American Poems that I know. At the Fair is the work of a living master.
Not nostalgia transports us here, but the sweet pulse of "vanished ephemerae", love of the Voyage, the illumination, and "throbbing rituals" of a life lived always inside poetry. Tom Clark's prodigious archive of memory trembles on the edge of a teetering universe, calls us back toward the imagination of Reverdy, Vallejo, Ungaretti as witness to the power and thrust and ethos of language. "The universe is strange, the universe is dangerous, the universe doesn't answer the phone." Indeed. But Clark does answer here for all us dreamers.
I read At the Fair driving through the vertiginous rock castles of Utah on the way to Moab, and it hit me like a gong in perfect synch with the incredible landscape. Memory, time, and the suffering of puny humans who resonate nonetheless with beauty, are indelible in this work; it is majestic, profound, and smart. For a language-user that's about the utmost. You can read this in a cave and you'll know grandeur.
Doors swing open on this shock of light. Here you will experience scripts and mind-telegrams, shapely in nerve and essence, moving always, and moving on. A circus at the settlement's edge: with memory-movies, new songs, and travellers' tales. We are reminded of frontier days when poetry was the better politics, proud inside itself. As Tom Clark's fresh voice echoes, and re-echoes, so beautifully, in the head. Across oceans and continents from Mediterranean California. And back. Mind kites in marine haze. Streaks. Showers.
"A theory of games is not the same thing as games," the poet says. Hitting on the precorporate is no retreat. Let this book happen. Its pleasures are subtle and true.
What a world. Every sinew in Tom Clark's verse-and-prose combine, taut and eloquent as can be, answers to a bevy of emergent occasion beyond the door, under the bed and in every phantom portfolio, whatsoever the unseen powers have slipped over gadzillion cubicles and the overextended imaginations of this our Earth. The poet's smooth lines and sudden-sprung fancy are the gentle observer's only comfort here. Large as that is, expect no closure as the page flips from "This is where we came in" to "So here we go." Go with Tom, boldly.
"M'illumino / d'immenso," as Ungaretti wrote in Santa Maria La Longa on the 26th of June, 1917; "Morning arrives / Big Time // (Morning arrives / Wide Eyed)," as Tom Clark 'translates' it, in Berkeley, California, on the 12 of June, 2010. What a pleasure it was for me to read it that morning, posted there on his blog (http://tomclarkblog.blogspot.com/) accompanied by an array of amazing photos — closeup of a "Peach Glow" water-lily just after rain; astronaut's view of an ash cloud from a volcanic eruption, Mt. Cleveland, Alaska; the Hubble Space Telescope's image of the Cone Nebula (seven light years long, 2,500 light years away); one final closeup of Red-eyed Tree Frog standing on a bright green leaf near Playa Jaco, Costa Rica. So now too what a pleasure to read this book, having seen it 'in pieces' each morning with the pictures that are here 'missing.' But if these words are all that remain of such an original work (words plus pictures), are they 'ruins' — Shelley's "shattered visage" around which "the lone and level sands stretch far away"? Yes, in one sense, because the poems are (as Tom says in a comment on the blog) "a mythic history of presence within the irretrievably lost"; but also no, since the words are still here, and in each present moment of reading invite us to imagine those now missing pictures along with the "disquietudes" of the world they look at and think about and feel, the one that "Just before sunrise... seems to wobble slightly on its axis." And so as Tom writes at the end of "Homecoming," "here we go."
— Stephen Ratcliffe
Tom Clark was born in Chicago in 1941 and educated at the University of Michigan, Cambridge University and the University of Essex. He worked variously as an editor (The Paris Review), critic (Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle) and biographer (lives of Damon Runyon, Jack Kerouac, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Edward Dorn), has written novels (Who is Sylvia?, The Exile of Céline, The Spell) and essays (The Poetry Beat, Problems of Thought: Paradoxical Essays). His many collections of poetry have included Stones, Air, At Malibu, John's Heart, When Things Get Tough on Easy Street, Paradise Resisted, Disordered Ideas, Fractured Karma, Sleepwalker's Fate, Junkets on a Sad Planet: Scenes from the Life of John Keats, Like Real People, Empire of Skin, Light and Shade, The New World, Something in the Air and Feeling for the Ground. He lives in Berkeley, California with his wife and partner of forty-two years, Angelica Heinegg.
· Paperback: 138 pages
· Binding: Perfect-Bound
· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books]
· ISBN: 978-1-60964-044-6
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