Occasionally I feel like Steinbeck’s Lennie. I am not Lennie. But sometimes, launched aloft by morning coffee and the smile of a stranger, I feel as though I can love like him. It’s a swirl of feeling within which clarity itself becomes charity, and the benevolence of simplicity cuts through my Gordian knot of grasping self-regard. In this reified air, confusion falls away as a kind of second naiveté displaces pettiness.
But within a day, or a moment, I can sink. And all the flayed strands, now reconstituted, snarl and tighten like wet twine, and roll into a heavy ball and lodge in my ribcage. And I know that I am unfit as Lenny. More like William Hazlett who awoke each morning “crawling in his own skin.”
And this, dear reader, is just one reason why I’ve grown to love poetry (and, I have to add, many of the Psalms). For good poetry honours the paradox of emotion and gives body to the riots of mind. It can buoy, shout, stroke and pierce you, it can have you on your back, supine, without so much as a breath of blame or a whiff of the preachy.
There are of course other reasons I desire poetry, most of which I find hard to describe. Most of which simply restate that poetry is its own reason.
So with this let me direct you to four books from four local masters. (Isn’t it too often the case that "out of town" poets, authors, artists, are esteemed, not because their work is superior, but because of their distance? This too has something to do with that Gordian knot.)
There is of course a whole stroll or rave of poets in our fair city. These are just a few books/chapbooks that have been my arresting, rowdy, sublime and orphic, but always welcome companions over the last little while. Do check them out.