FROM âeoeblack and blueâe to âeoeblack and whiteâe to âeoewhatâe(TM)s black and white and read all over?âe thereâe(TM)s no mistaking that Africadian poet (his autonominative âeoeAfricanâe plus âeoeAcadianâe ) George Elliott Clarke lobs and lauds the word BLACK with an emphasis not on lack but on the first-class letter A at its middle. He clabbers the reader with black. He blasts and blabs and ejaculates black, as every good heterosexual Romantic poet idealizing Beauty would do if HE were BLACK and had already been BLUE. Clarkeâe(TM)s collection Blue was published in 2001 before 9/11, or as Clarke puts it in the elegiac âeoeIX/XI,âe when a âeoeMalcolm X prophecy came to fiery smoking life/ In a King Kong apocalypse of planes hitting towersâe which âeoecame down like twin Titanics, sinkingâe .
Polestar puts out a nice book, and in this case the production values have been notched upward to include section-marker halftones of a vertically posing gorgeous supermodel-lithe nude black woman glimmering from a pitch-dark nothingnessâe"or is it Everythingnessâe"and luscious matte black section dividers. The book is held in the hand like a chunky, pocketable magazine, peppered with sections of poetry titled âeoeBlackâe¦âe mated with the terms Lung, Ink, Earth, Eye, Ice, Cloud, Light, Velvet. Many of the poems riff off of previous versions in Blue, and it is gratifying to compare iterations and collude with Clarkeâe(TM)s intertextual method.
Much of the book brags forth Clarkeâe(TM)s own poetics and meaning against a Western poetry canon, a cascade of enthusiastic declaratives such as âeoeMy black, âe~Bluenoseâe(TM) brogue smacks lips and ears/ When I bite the bitter grapes of Creole verse âe"/ Or gripe and blab like a Protestant pope/ So rum-pungent Africa muted perfumed Europeâe (from âeoeLanguageâe ), indeed with âeoeInk on my hands like bomb residueâe (âeoeAutobiography (II)âe ). Clarke knows heâe(TM)s full of himself and so do we. His Black repeats itself repletely, seething with energy, potently eruptive, a droning call (yes, a cauldron) packed with puns, assonance, consonance, fueled by a fucking great ear, one of the best anywhere. A chromatic scholar, he pounds Pound, eats Yeats, lays Layton, talcs Walcott, walks miles for Miles (Davis), and specifies âeoeNo matter how comically meticulous,/ My canvas is the bluesâe (âeoePoetry 1/7/75âe"1/7/05, IVâe"Confessionsâe ).
Against repeated testimonials that the narrator is a BAD BLACK wily and compulsive literary thief, Iâe(TM)m interested in this collectionâe(TM)s tenderly ambivalent poems about staved-off marital infidelity. In âeoeLa VeritÃ© Ã¥ Ottawa,âe April is indeed the cruellest month wherein Clarkeâe(TM)s generally explosive oral trajectories compulsively self-flagellate. There is charming local detail in these poemsâe"the âeoefrothing falls of the E.B. Eddy factoryâe¦with the Peace Tower behind youâe¦âe (something curiously absent in the text generally)âe"amidst which the attractions of a potential mistress dangerously beckon. The following section âeoeBlack Eyeâe offers the bookâe(TM)s least successful but perhaps most daring point of view, positing tender despair and withered desire cast in âeoeThe promiscuously viscous rainâe"/ A light grey mucus over everythingâe (âeoeShoreâe ). Manifesto falters. Black goes grey, âeoequasi-scuzzyâe ; âeoeLove is not a word/ to fuck with.âe A virtuoso love poem to Clarkeâe(TM)s real wife (âeoeCall yourself, glancingly,/ âe~a small, brown woman,âe(TM)âe ) sings with generous, perhaps apologetic, gleam at the bookâe(TM)s end, âeoeYou are a fifth element, feelings, and an epochâe (âeoeA Geetaâe ).
Psychologically, canonically, textually, Clarke is an almost devastatingly relationalâe"therefore sociobizarroâe"narcissist. Like a blinged-up rapper, he posits self-supremacy but, unlike such macho comic icons, he hinges his own visibility to the coming-into-significance of others, as if the collective is essential to not only Poetry (hey, gotta have an audience!) but to the naming of democratic citizenship for which âeoethe repercussions of black voiceâe need take the conversive form of âeoedark ivy vying against marble tombsâe (âeoeIV. iiâe âe"for Andrea Thompson). Other lines and attributions I love in this book? âeoeBlack is lilies, isles of lilies, and their gold trumpeting perfumeâe (âeoeIV. Iiiâe âe"for Clifton Joseph). âeoeLove is painful at first; and it is painful at the endâe (âeoeProgressive Descentâe âe"for Afua Cooper).âe"Margaret Christakos
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