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Evening Train by Tom Clark Reviewed in Elliptical Movements by Billy Mills

  

Evening Train by Tom Clark: A Review

Evening Train, by Tom Clark, BlazeVOX Books, 2014, ISBN: 978-1-60964-187-0, $16.00

The first thing to say about Tom Clark is that he is an American poet; this may seem too obvious to need stating, but it is fundamental to his art. The language, social norms and history of the United States are woven into the very fabric of his verse. This is made explicit in the first poem in Evening Train, ‘Moving House’, where the process of house removal is folded into the myth of Manifest Destiny, a people

…always moving out

ahead of the next wave yet not

riding the last wave to the crest

Clark writes poems that encompass memory (a central preoccupation), the natural world and our role in it, ageing and death, the interface between technology and social control: but all these matters are examined in a landscape that is specifically American and generally urban. Many of the poems set in the now reflect the geography of the city of Berkeley, where Clark has lived for many years. For instance, the almost surreal, apocalyptic poem ‘skyfalling’ is firmly anchored to a specific street junction in a precise social milieu:

Ninth and Bancroft, West Berkeley

insecure householder half dressed

emerges from behind barred gate

looks up into dark sky

one arm bent overhead as if to shield, crouching –

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