Monday, April 06, 2009

the cruelest month review series #3

i'd been mostly but for an hr last night off-line last weekend. the weather and the events happening in my house, which include nicholas smashing the toilet tank and the base of the pedestal sink in the back bathroom as the boy was standing on the commode and putting all his weight on the sink as he tried to look at himself in the mirror when the sink lost its mooring and crashing into the tank and base leaving large cracks, were too fine and dramatic for me to do anything but odds and ends around the house and grooving on these gorgeous spring days. as for the watercloset luckily nicholas was unhurt - thank the maker - and the damage, overall, is quite minimal, but man!, what a heat-attack inducer.

instead i turned to the work of thom gunn and re-read in piecemeal fashion gunn's last published collection, boss cupid [fsg, 2000] thru the weekend. i like gunn in his totality, even at his most flawed and boring, his reserve and his desire for sensual pleasures win me over each time. one of the books that changed my life is gunn's collected poems which i purchased in paperback after discovering his '80s collection the passages of joy in the university library way back when. his love of life and his contradictions are so appealing that when i read gunn i discover anew that poetry and life can become a single thing.

another thing i like about gunn is the poet's expansion of generosity as he aged. as we get older we all, i think, fall prey to irritability, stubbornness, pig-headedness, and inflexibility. i don't know why, but perhaps the synapses begin to harden as the body begins its slow decay and the memory begins to fail leaving us that much more cynical and intolerant. these are of course generalities but to my eyes gunn, in his work - as i know very little about his private life and frankly when it comes to the work that is all that matters, hadn't succumbed to such brittle hardening of the heart. rather, his heart grew two sizes larger with an edge to it that makes the reading much more delicious as the vista of love grows so does the poet's shit detector.

which is obvious in the title of the collection, boss cupid, that love, desire, sex, generosity and power all spring from, as gunn concludes his poem 'a wood near athens':

The intellect as powerhouse of love.

too, gunn explorations of desire go wild as he includes a suite of songs titled 'troubadour' that about the serial killer, cannibal and necrophiliac jeffrey dahmer. how does dahmer jibe with cupid? only does gunn's almost zen-like restraint pushes forward this conceit and succeeds by the contrast and comparison. cupid's makes love grow by shooting arrows into our hearts and thus we are possessed by desire with the need to possess the beloved dahmer's desire grows monstrous yet still remains fixed in the need for possession too. again, in 'a wood near athens' gunn reminds us that love and desire are 'Beautiful and ridiculous'. and that:

Love makes the shoots leap from the blunted branches,
Love makes the birds call, and maybe we are right.
Love then makes craning saplings crowd for light,
The weak being jostled off to shade and death.
Love makes the cuckoo heave its foster-siblings
Out of the nest, to spatter on the ground.
For love has gouged a temporary hollow
Out of its baby-back, to help it kill.

gunn makes love rather gruesome in such particular details. but again the poet asks, 'who did get it right?' among love's famous historical figures.

who has indeed. instead of settling on desire and love as two negatives that make a positive gunn's poems in this collection are filled with delight. even the poem 'classics' where 'bartending is a branch /of show business' when the bartender is also a well-known porn star where the poet looks upon him with longing and concludes that 'It was a pity about / the sibilance, but / I could have killed / for a chance to chew / on those jumbo tits' is hearty as it keeps distant and also is full of a falstaffian humor.

finally, gunn addresses cupid directly in the poem 'to cupid' as the poet fights off sleep to listen to the neighbors' wedding feast and delights in the decorum and comeliness of the occasion.

Good will within delay within good will.
And Cupid, devious master of our bodies,
You were the source then of my better rest.

poems so full of life and love even as they take delight in some of cupid's more salacious aspects are for me an invigoration and affirmation of life and the life in art and why i so love gunn's poetry.


Post a Comment

<< Home