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tearing the rag off the bush again
Charles Greenberg on Frym and Mayer PDF E-mail
 Charles Greenberg reflects on new books from Gloria Frym and Bernadette Mayer

Homeless at Home

by Gloria Frym
Creative Arts Book Company

No synagogues in Leavenworth, Kansas but there is a
sizeable Hebrew cemetary at the trailhead of the Santa Fe
Trail at the end of which there is "sunlight at the window."
America poets of Jewish descent may reflect on Pound's
poem Brennbaum of cherubic face "stiffness from spats to
collar never relaxing into grace." The purification and
visionary strength of the Sinai withered away. Pound,
however, never figured Brennbaum would have a daughter
who was not raised in the immediate "valley of the shadow
of death" as most Jews in history,nor did he figure on the
physicists at Los Alamos who were his contemporaries.
No Ms. Frym was free to be at play among the fields of
the Lord.
Not unlike the Transcendentalists or Utopians, some Jews
given freedom and prosperity will run to recreate the Garden
of Eden every time. Having known Ms. Frym some 35 years
ago in college she was then too smart to hang her self with
this rope. Olive, gorgeous, and wild she had a discriminating
habit of mind in the surrounding bacchanalia(the 60's in
New Mexico). Since then she has become an exacting
poet informing us well in her book Homeless at Home, a
Kaddish for her father, in language, and tale over time that
we can understand.
Dear Pound, you have a choice. The common people have
a saying:be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.
The Choice: the poet whose love cannot be quelled or
compromised, whose craft is word, who tells the story of
her life in poems in poetry as light as ritual candle to raise
her father's soul out of purgatory(a familiar place to you)
so he can see her as she is free, beautiful, loving, lovely,
charitable to the poor, a person of hope to tortured souls
questing for beauty and truth, all in America  VS  the forced
refugees now of Sinai now armed for a Nuclear Massada
indebted only to Americans. Who do you like better Ez,
since you tried to help the boys rubbing out the Jews
(no matter it was indirect). I'd bet on an America poet who
could interpolate Eros to Idaho and be from Sinai too, but
then I'm not you.
I suspect Mr. Frym was a bit more capable than depicted.
He was among the ones who got away. He may not have
known who Tristan Tzara was or Paul Celan but he was
smart enough to know that the Poets could not stop the
Nazis. Only the Soldiers backed by an incredible economy
could, did and will. Apparently he did not say much about
the generational distance, difference, desires, dreams, but
certainly knew more about political economy than 1 Dorn,
4 Barakas, and 1 Snyder, i.e. a political economy that did
not lead to tyranny. It's inventors, and hapless, happy fat
cats that make the world go around in a wealthy free for all.
Mr. Frym was really the strong, silent type.
In this Kaddish, Frym raises the bar of hope so his soul
can rise: the glories of erudition "the highest form of prayer
is study"; poet " so language makes the woman"; the future
"thought occurs faster than light, I see it in a thousand dawns";
history(poetic) "the key is in the sunlight at the
window"; and theory "the disappearance of time"(this of
course is just a theory).
New Hebrew prayer: If my soul be in purgatory may my
daughter be a poet who can lead me out.
Certainly Gloria Frym leads the way, and though poetry
is not very practical in the material world(paradoxically the
world would perish without it) it can provide a bridge to the
next. "More is wrought by prayer in this world than is
dreamed of" said the bard. It was a bard who said it.
With this work she takes her place, and unlike Ginsberg,
who we all admire in some way, she did not run away
to Tibet.

Scarlet Tanager

by Bernadette Mayer
New Directions

"At the time of corpses and clouds I can make love here
  as anywhere"

                         Philip Lamantia
Underneath the atomic veil and still in a world with war,
famine, and pestilence, this line presents any thinking
person with a challenge. If there is a poet who has lived
this line and expanded on it in her life's work it is Bernadette
Mayer. Certainly one of America's greatest living poets.
Robert Creeley called her "consumate" and John Ashberry
"magnificent." That tells you something about her language.
Her life is not touched upon by the back of the book as much as the cover.
We see the opening frame of a CAT-scan
of the brain and the sanguine colored Scarlet Tanager. It's
by virtue of a millimeter or two or three that we still have her
speech. That she prevails in her art is a tribute to her spirit
and perhaps the breeding plumage of the tanager.
She dedicates the book to her parents a very catholic thing
to do after re-experiencing the concept of conception after
nearly being destroyed.
Her work is a remarkable continum. The scholars may some
day want to look isolatedly at the poems, and references
to Grace Murphy her life long friend who appears for more
than thirty years.
There is always Stein and she is as Stein as Stein. My
favorite lines in this book come from the poem To Admiral
Scott About Space, classic for her unusual juxtapositions....
(experimental everybody says) "And idealistically utopianly
And utopianly hedonistically, And headlong utopianly...."
Of course that's where I once met her as a concept.
The key poem in this book is This Is A Problem Solving
Dream Where The Group Attempts To Change the Language.
This about love, and language transforming
the world. It is a theme that occurs throughout her work
starting in Memory, and then more developed in Studying
Hunger, and Proper Name. This motif, in her terms, is
really a post-modern Vita Nuova.
The concept of synchronicity, the idea of language, feeling
fitting into relativity theory is hinted at but not developed.
This is perhaps more directly developed in Andrei Codrescu's
new book Wakefield.
Then there is Eros. All her supporters call her "erotic,"
though in her early work due to her technique of "obsfucation"
Eros was more like "surround sound" then
direct. In The Formal Field of Kissing and in the epigrams of
this book it is quite direct and open. Prior to that her
"eroticism" was mostly indirect. Readers knew it was there,
it would happen, it was wonderful, but in a universe of
discovery it was kept as a mystery.
Poems for her children, her friends, lovers, husband.
Poems for the peace of the world "wars.....they're just
a phenomenon of before and after Christ which is why
that person's peaceful nature created this system of
years beyond the seasons."
Poems for justice.
Poems for fun.
Poems for a wit that shall never surrender.
"I look around religiously like Dante and I am meek" she
once wrote.
Thomas Merton said "There is no greater disaster for the
spiritual life than to be immersed in unreality." He also said
that the reason most people do not become saints is that
they wear themselves out trying to become someone they
are not. An optimistic view of mankind perhaps true for some.
No not like the girl from Lourdes, but a person of great faith.
You see it most in what I called her post-modern Vita Nuova motif.
Someday the scholars might find the composite Beatrice.
She ought to be a professor in a major university.
She should have been decades ago
but then academia was too
homogenized for her unvarnished truths and her passion.
I remember reading an internet blurb where she was
introduced at a reading as Mrs. Poetry, like some dowager
Steinian figure, and I thought that's awful sweet slick but she could see
through your love life in a New York minute and if she didn't
it was only because she was being polite.
Imagine that America's greatest living love poet as Mrs. Poetry.
She'll never be that old even when she is old.
To A Politician
I'm not able to explain this poem in context, since politicians are people too.
Evil tyrants like Hitler, Stalin,
Saddam are different. So I went to the well to Fair, Kind,
and True. "Fair, Kind, and True what should we do/"
For this query Fair, Kind, and True spoke in a Brooklyn
accent. "Ask her she'll listen. Is you or ain't you from
And the other political poem misses if you have ever been
a Tefillin winding guy in the periwinkle shtetl and fanatics
start talking about killing all the Jews on hallowed ground
of Brooklyn Ferry Crossing and Whitman Oh Captain My
Captain and nursing the wounded in our bloodiest Civil War
about free the slaves not absolutely exactly, and then
Crane and the Brooklyn Bridge down by brooklyn ferry
crossing providential wind and providental fog Washington's
army escapes in the night on the treacherous river and
would we have had Hawthorne and Whitman without
Sunday April 13th
"Not only shall I survive,I will prevail." William Faulkner said
of his writing in his enclosed world and he did. Mississippi
is after all a brand new world. It's writers in situ, heavily
honored, had something to do with it.
And so with illness, and pain, and debility Bernadette Mayer
has contended remarkably, perhaps no less than Flannery
O'Connor, and the hope is she will continue too, but most
people are unconscious of how fragile life is. Did you know
that Flannery O'Connor was once in love with Robert Lowell?
What's that got to do with the price of eggs? Just that in
Bernadette's catholic work you see the same principle in
O'Connor's Catholic work that entitles one of her stories
"Everything That Rises Must Converge."
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