Monday, March 26, 2012

Songs Scared from the Conch // As Voices Carry - Poems by Carolyn Srygley-Moore

The review below is for the online book at Keith Alan Hamilton's gallery:

One kind of simple ecstatic revelation takes place as a dedicated reader tries to keep up with Carolyn Srygley-Moore’s prodigious daily output of poems online. Anyone can be prolific, but only a few can be continuously transcendent. Revelation of another sort takes place when one sees Srygley-Moore’s work over a period of time collated by mood and subject matter. It then becomes clear that she bears but a passing resemblance to mortals.

Previous collections of Srygley-Moore’s work, in particular Memory Rituals: An Army of Suns (Tjgrszmk Publishing, 2011), allow us to assemble jigsaw pieces of discrete brilliance into larger landscapes. Her online archives occasionally are grouped in different diary or miracle categories which give intentional or accidental glimpses into the mindset behind the puzzle box.

The new online work explicitly sets out a cladistics for ordering her work, which may or may not correspond to how the poems resonate to real-world imaginings (though that damned guitar does keep showing up in the phylum order known as ‘Bargaining with my broken guitar,’ giving us confidence that she knows what she is doing). Publisher Keith Alan Hamilton and Foreword Author Aad de Gids provide a framework for deciphering Srygley-Moore, all aided by artwork from Wm. Andrew Turman (as well as the author herself), providing a dime map of the reef.

If we judged familiarity by its closeness to the earth, the second section of the online book, ‘a dog in the snow’, might be the most comfortable territory, due to the abundance of things we can see, grasp, or at least glimpse through a microscope – the dog, the breasts, the orange, the amoeba. At the same time, we catch hints of the difficult events that have shaped her, from the distant and violent father to the dalliances with a profound hopelessness. It’s OK, focus on the dog for now – or that silly red guitar, if you wish.

Some might find the most direct references to transcendence (or its absence) in the third part of the book, which shares its title with the book itself (‘Songs Scared from the Conch’). Between dead deer, marches against Three Mile Island meltdowns, and terror of uncertain origin, we find ourselves in the fuzzy purgatory zone that exists just past the collapsed wave-front of the world that apparently exists. I found the most direct personal references in the poem ‘Between deaths,’ with its brave declaration, “I leave in order to come back again.” Since I’ve felt myself caught in a bardo between two or more distinct physical lives in the last few months, Carolyn provided me with a personal anthem. But the most universal cri de couer in the third section might be the italicized second segment of ‘Clocks of Seawater’:


the same snowman, molten with spit-fire,

or kerosene, is it // the unlit lamp, the lamp

that cannot be lit, O clock of water,

I beseech you, ruin my wristwatch again, usurp the hour

with the secrets of the oceanic

fish in flight, secrets of going fishing

on new years day, pissing the stars away … all runs into each other,

doesn’t it, ink blots, “what do you see here

a mother, a daughter // if you enjoy this, you are compulsive.”

hear lions in the forest, you are more than paranoid,

even if there are weeping lions in the forest…

i see you, old lover, with another girl,

tell myself you are old playmates, kissing each other without tongue

down in the dry creek bed, & then

soldiers appear, are they sailors, scrubbing

decks of fire, nailing the planks together,

into a Prometheus boat of iron such as man has never seen.”

The final three sections of the book are all surge experiments (more successful than the Iraqi variety), where ‘Drunk on the Other’ might claim to be the most obvious in declarations of victory, though ‘Gathered In’ and ‘Write Something Happy, he says’ are victorious enough in their own right. CSM proves she’s not trying to be obscure, or dependent on oblique strategies, in a poem such as ‘On Transcendence,’ where the opening line declares ‘You’re open to the other dimension.’ Every poem in the second half of the book refuses to dwell in any specific sort of sadness, but moves beyond.

In fact, this collection is so good it makes me uncomfortable in a strange way. The scientific method has given us such a good way of describing the surface of things, it would be nice to let the wave-front stand for the whole, to pretend the Michelson-Morley experiments worked and we didn’t have to deal with any of that Einstein and Bohr shit. It would be nice to gloat in a Richard Dawkins style of militant atheism, but Carolyn has taught me to plumb the ley lines, admit to angels, dive under the light sheet to swim in all 11 dimensions. Owning up to the other realities she forces us to face is unnerving and glorious at the same time.

Rationalists tend to get fidgety when confronted with the language of ascended masters. This applies not only to scientists and fact-checkers, but even to the erstwhile surrealists who like to keep at least one foot grounded to avoid high-voltage shocks. Carolyn Srygley-Moore presents with exquisitely-described worlds that clearly reveal the presence of angels. Her words must be swallowed in gulps, adsorbed through the skin without benefit of an anti-static grounding strap. Ecstatic revelation is guaranteed, almost becomes commonplace when reading her work, but beware the dosage. The St. Vitus' Dance could muss up your hair.

Loring Wirbel
March 26, 2012
Copyright Loring Wirbel 2012

1 comment:

Ruth said...

Sounds amazing. Everything I've read by Carolyn has knocked me out. To do that day after day! Wow. Excellent review, Loring!