Friday, December 7, 2012

"miracles of the BloG: a series" - Carolyn Srygley-Moore

Walking on glass, parting the Red Sea, swallowing fire, all amount to parlour tricks, useful in their own way, but scarcely instructive.  The miraculous instances of merit start small, the resonances we all know are tingling within us but try to discount - even though the mere fact the resonances are not sinusoidally destroyed counts as a measure of the divine.  The specific geographical coordinates are critical here, the ley lines that holler as loudly as Stonehenge, telling us that there was no reason for the Knoxville sorcerer to wind up in Laingsburg, but there you have it.  What counts as miracle is the delicate peeling away of the layers we are unable to see through, the revelation of the pattern beneath that was always there, as certain as an acupuncture mapping.

Carolyn Srygley-Moore first began posting a collection of miracles online in late 2011, not as an affirmation of the worthiness of the physical world to those who have lost all faith (though that comes with the territory), but as an observation that there might be a better way to chronicle important resonances than to throw on all the costumes and finery of Catholic or Orthodox ritual.  Don't worry, if you're a connoisseur of rag and bone, you will find enough relics within this volume to trade for the withered index fingers of at least a dozen saints.

The first thing that strikes the reader of miracles of the BloG: a series, is its subtle ordering.  The prelude, 'Miracles on York Road,' is one of the few miraculous poems with specificity of place that does not number a series of miracles taking place across several days.  York Road is the original signpost for the novice, for the one that will not believe, and Carolyn is ready to take the reader's hand, like teaching assistant with preschooler, to show that observing and naming miracles does not require a devout faith, merely a good eye.

This is followed, as a decent instruction course should, by sections with more elementary miracles, 'Child's Babble' and 'Love Poems.'  The latter might not seem so simple, but an orientation to the beloved allows an easier slipping into centers of gravity than the final long section on 'Poems of Place.'  Whether you rely on a GPS tracking device or a divining stick, the centering of miraculous on latitude and longitude is a higher-order math than either love or children's rhymes.

Poems of the first section are memorable for their frankness and hilarity.  'Miracles of Eleanor and Di,' for example (followed not-so-coincidentally with a poem about parallel worlds), describes the foibles of modern royalty while dogs wait for their supper - and might be perfect to be read aloud while waiting for Kate Middleton to get over her morning sickness.  'Miracles of Going Into Hiding' is a how-to poem for going into hiding at the Y (a constant habit of mine), accompanied by collected reruns of The Prisoner.

There is plenty of serious intent in 'Child's Babble,' such as a stanza in the elegy for Heath Ledger, 'Miracles of Knowing Why Heath Could Not Sleep':

Of course of course when I needed you most
you chose to save the world.
Of course.

It was just a dream                 my husband says.
Not really I say.
Not really.

Needless to say, Carolyn follows this one up with a poem on taking care not to let the terrorists win - George Bush would be proud.  We are also greeted with images of her troubled father singing "Bye o Baby Bunting" in 'Miracles of Rabbit Pelts Promised,' and a concluding miraculous song of good fortune, "I wish you forever," in 'Miracles of the Refrain.'

It is no accident that one of the first poems in the 'Love Poems' section is 'Miracles of Cartoon Realism,' as this is my perceived reality.  There is no greater love message than the bumper sticker "First save the world, then watch cartoons," and no greater agape love than watching Rocky & Bullwinkle with a German Shepherd, remembering the woman who ate too much Mickey Mouse and thought she could fly.

Some would chalk it up to wry humor or 21st-century irony, to mention the Lidice massacre of 1942 in a poem entitled  'Miracles of Lady Gaga and Jesus,' or to bring up David Byrne throwing up his hands and proclaiming "My God!  What have I done?", in a poem about institutionalized madness . called 'Miracles of listening to 80s Alternative while soldiering snow in summer heat.'  But Carolyn Srygley-Moore intends no irony here, only love.  This is why a poem called 'Miracles of Trembling' can contain a line like "an anti-noise whoosh as of a ghost loosed."

The book's final section on 'Poems of Place' is for the advanced student ready to handle the specific resonant miracles of geography.  Most poems are like psalms or common prayers, based on a "In the first miracle..... in the second miracle .... in the final miracle" format.  Do we need to know what Carolyn was feeling on Raleigh Drive or Harpeth Knoll Road, to fully appreciate these poems?  No more than we need to know what Steely Dan meant by the fearsome excavation on Magnolia Boulevard.  Carolyn takes our hand and walks us through the neighborhood.  The resonances are there, if we would but see.  This section of the book contains the most rewarding and challenging poems, related to what I mentioned earlier about the peeling away of layers to reveal the ley lines.  Chaos theorists tell us that nothing can fully define the strange attractors of the butterfly-wing effect.  The math is too difficult.  Carolyn tells us we can get a low-resolution map of the miracle of place, at the very least, if we just follow the resonances that reveal magic.  The flap of each and every butterfly wing relevant to the map coordinates will reveal itself.

miracles of the BloG: a series ends with a 'Prologue' of two hopeful autobiographical poems.  Considered alongside Dom Gabrielli's introduction and the author's own art, we would no more see Carolyn's new book of poems as sad or ominous than we would see the recent movie Beasts of the Southern Wild as devoid of hope.  Remember that Hushpuppy, the young heroine of the film, tells us that "The brave stick around to watch it happen."  Carolyn Srygley-Moore always sticks around - in the specific geographical place that shows you multiple miracles, or just to hold your hand in the fuzzy dimensions where simpler miracles occur.  We can hear the nursery-rhyme lyrics in the background - "The world is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings."

miracles of the BloG: a series, from Punk Hostage Press, is available at this link.

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