Cloudbank 9 includes poetry and flash fiction by Rebecca Foust, Karl Krolow, Rebecca Lilly, Jeffrey Alfier, Kathleen McGookey, Mike Faran, James Valvis and others. Stlll Life with Judas and Lightning by Dawn Diez Willis and Small Talk: New & Selected Poems by Peter Sears are reviewed.
Issue introduction by Michael Malan
Heart of Light
We might ask, though, if “everything not of the first intensity” were removed, would a poem still work as a cohesive unit? What about the narrative flow of the poem? Wouldn’t “the story” get lost somewhere along the way?
And yet, “The Waste Land,” like many contemporary poems, is manifested in what Kenner calls the “pervading zone of consciousness . . . of the author.” It seems clear now that Eliot and Pound were liberating poetry from a narrative structure that lacked intensity and were allowing language to drift in an individual stream of consciousness where narrative was less vital than imagery and semantic oomph.
Eliot encouraged readers to “endeavor to grasp what the poetry is aiming to be . . . to grasp its entelechy.” “Entelechy” means different things to different people, but “actuality” or “essence” are passable general meanings.
Here’s a passage from “The Waste Land”:
—Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
This is powerful, intense poetry and will affect readers differently. For Hugh Kenner, “The context is erotic, the language that of mystical experience: plainly a tainted mysticism.” I’m reminded of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” and Ingmar Bergman’s The Silence Trilogy, both rather bleak works and consistent with some of the themes in “The Waste Land.” And yet, “the heart of light” also suggests spiritual transformation, a silence born not of dissolution, but of harmony and tranquility, themes that Eliot would take up later in his Four Quartets.
And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight,
And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly,
The surface glittered out of heart of light,
And they were behind us, reflected in the pool.
Then a cloud passed and the pool was empty.
Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,
Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.
PRIZE WINNING POEM
Lady of Antiquity
When I’m an old maid, I’ll be acid in the
body of night, a grubbed-out poisonous
vine, with my sophistries and cynicism.
What did the hermit-elf, centuries-old, say
in the storybooks? Nothing’s worth old age.
I wander by our family graves, bouquets
of withered hydrangea and baby’s breath,
my stare mummifying the names.
The old maid…so many characters, various,
from fairy tales and children’s games. I’m
wary of curiosity. And the forest: a cliche,
but still frightening. Perhaps that’s why it
isn’t yet “old hat.” I’d rather have a night
of sound sleep, my imaginary owls sight-
ing the darkness.
At least it’s a forest at night and not the
house of my life with its many broken sky-
lights. I mime an animal crawling through
woods, tripping over rocks. It’s all darkness
out here, a house without walls, the open
I’d like my house back, one I built myself
at the woods edge: at least my poet’s eyes
could live with the cracks! As wind dies
along the pond, treefrogs hush to a whip-
poorwill, then softly, an owl.
Past our family graves is a sinkhole with
rusted appliances, scrap metal, old tires, a
chassis in thistles. I vow to let silence reign
Raising my scepter (a rotted stick) I laugh
at myself, joisting at air. Who’s there, who’s
my invisible playmate? I’m no queen. More
a jack of all trades, or a wolf in the bonnet
and dress of an old maid.
Poets and writers in Cloudbank 9
June Frankland Baker
Kerry Tepperman Campbell
Eric Wayne Dickey
Lee O. McGee
Edward J. Rielly
Penelope Scambly Schott
Robert Joe Stout