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Chris Toll, Life on Earth, Fell Swoop #120, 2012 (Fell Swoop, PO Box 70174) My marvelous friend, Chris Toll, passed away in his sleep and left life on earth, just as this collection of his poetry appeared. I don't know if Joel Dailey, the editor of Fell Swoop, had a chance to present Chris with his final collection of poetry, but whether he did or not, it's a great gathering of the late poet's recent work, with a beautiful Surrealist, wonder-filled cover collage by the poet. I knew Chris in Baltimore, and loved him like everyone who knew him: he was all about poetry. He was the world's greatest Bob Dylan fan, and we argued every new Dylan album: it usually took me three months to like new Dylan works, but Chris was right there, every time. Baltimore was going through a golden age of poetry in the early 1980s, and Chris Toll's VW bug was my chief means of transport to and from poetry readings, its bubble as important as the Mt. Royal Tavern or Second Story Books. There was  innocence and sweetness in Chris, born possibly of his refusal to allow bummers like bad experiences and ageing get in the way of his faith in a benevolent and radiant universe. Chris was funny in a non-mean way, and his poems were always a pleasure to listen to, and are a pleasure to read. Here is one, from Section 2 WHY IS ART IN EARTH?:

Possess Nothing

The moon is no ghostly galleon,
Ann hunts her grave through a cloud of smoke,
and I am besotted with liberty.
Why is easy in queasy?
A boy is running a meth lab,
a girl has $80,000 in her backpack,
and an ambulance takes a time machine to City Hall.
Why is a cat in cathedral?
Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Buddha
gather for a poker game.
Buddha sits on the back of a hawk,
Jesus sits on a mushroom,
and Mary Magdalene sits on a spiral galaxy.
We were born to be together.

True to the admonition of his title, Chris didn't possess much in the way of material goods, and when he asks, as he often does, in wonder at the mystery of language, why the names of certain apparently unrelated things can be found inside other things, you wonder, too. Why is there a "cat" in cathedral? Because, if I may be so bold, Chris Toll was himself a cat in a cathedral: he saw himself with true humility as a bit of something in something greater. The saints in his poems were real to him: he believed in all of them, though he probably liked Mary the best. The little scene of the holy ones playing poker is pure Bob Dylan. The news makes an appearance too, a part of the ongoing wonder of it all. And the last line is truth, pure and simple, like Chris Toll.

Mike Topp
, Shorts Are Wrong. Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 2008. Mike Topp is one of ours: if we hadn't invented him he'da had to do it himself. We started publishing Topp in the old paper Exquisite Corpse because his poems fit exactly into those widowed spaces that were the despair of layout in the olden days. Soon thereafter, a Topp cult arose. Today he's blurbed by everyone, including myself. I called him the "Andy Warhol and Ralph Nader of literature." This book has every kind of poem in it, including a Zen parable that begins: "A handsome young Zen monk came to Bankei and complained: "Master, I have an uncontrollable boner. How can I master it?"

Wyatt Townley,
The Afterlives of Trees, Woodley Press, www.WyattTownley.com Trees are big these days because there are less of them. They used to be a lot bigger when we didn't live in wood houses, and even bigger when we (the people) weren't around. The remaining trees are lovingly considered, observed, and noted, from roots to crown, by this splendid poet of the forest. "Down goes the sun/ up comes the owl." (The Other Side). Townley doesn't write about trees, but like Emily Dickinson and Robert Creeley, there is always something abrupt and woodsy about her philosophical-lyrical search. There are a lot of great photos of trees between the poems, however, by Michael Johnson. As one (me) who is currently working with tree roots (or "witches," or "persephones" -- phones to the undertheground) I appreciate both po & pic.

Tristan Tzara
, Chansons Dada, Selected Poems, translated by Lee Harwood, Boston: Black Widow Press, www.blackwidowpress.com. Our man! Long live Dada! Long out of print, this translation reappears at a critical junction in history: leninism is dead except for one or two places, but the Dada spirit flourishes as never before. Now it’s time for someone with great chops to take on the rest of Tzara’s fabulous poetry and boat it over. Tzara’s Dada fame eclipsed the genius of his poetry. Even the French don’t know what they’ve got, since the Oeuvres Complétes is mostly unavailable in France.

Dumitru Tsepeneag, Art of the Fugue, translation from Romanian by Patrick Camiller, Champaign, IL, Dalkey Archive, www.dalkeyarchive.com. Interlocking mysterious tales by the Romanian-French fictioneer whose work is well-known in Europe. This is his first American publication.

Nicolae Tzone, capodopera maxima, Bucharest: Editura Vinea, This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it . Another gorgeously produced book that is visually and textually a sensual feast. The poet is also the publisher of Vinea books, and as this work shows, quality of writing, visual acuity, and splendid craft, can all bloom in one guy.

 
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