||March 7, 2005
A Mystic East Anthology
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After the information superhighway opened up to cater to the burgeoning demands of haves and have-nots, this world has shrunk into a four dimensional sphere that has a fraction-of-a-second projection along the time line. There was a time when communication was a slave to bullock carts, horseback rides and courier pigeons. The world was a foreign entity. In R. Emerson's eerie definition, the world is everything that is not myself, including my own body. Gradually, this fear of foreign frontiers receded and what we see now is a less foreign, less alienated, and less extreme other. The compass was invented, maps were laid and people shed fears of seas and foreign land.
Now, with the press of a few keys or the click of the mouse buttons we get to know about the most exotic customs and treasures, the most exotic delicacies of every nook of this world. I am writing in a language which is a colonial bequest thrust upon my countrymen a few generations back; and I don't even claim to be the best of the best from India, nor do I claim to be the best photographer who clicks a pic and misses out from the picture frame. A poem is a verbal metronome; it is a kaleidoscope of the culture and the idiosyncrasies of its birthplace. It is a time capsule deciphering about the life and times of the poet-the narrator, protagonist, or none of them.
According to Russian poet, Andrei Voznesensky, a poem is "a crystal, a model of the world, a structure of harmony, a method of thought penetrating to the essence of what is happening, a way of revealing the truth." According to American poet, Robert Jude Ace the poet is the prototype of an enigma, a mystical entity embodied in the skin of a conscious essentia, an entity expressing the whims of his heart and the will of an expanding being ... the poet embodies the social, romantic and philosophical concepts of life that every conscious being should pursue and resurrect ... the poet is the poem and the poem composed transforms the poet..."
This is an age when ice cakes make better business than poetry books; but does it mean poets should stop creating? Of course, not! Poetry, like other forms of the art of expression, is a necessity for the world, it is a service to humanity to know the past; it is a journey of cultures and generations. English poetry begins whenever we decide to say the modern English language begins, and it extends as far as we decide to say that the English language extends. We cannot expect everyone to agree with us when we make a decision in either case. I certainly differ from those who believe that English poetry begins with the Anglo-Saxons, which is a different language and has to be learnt like any foreign language.
Percussion is a collection of poetry; three of its verbal drummers, Robert Jude Forese, Jim Dunlap and Joseph Armstead, are from different parts of the USA -- one, Richard James, is an Australian (having Dutch connections) -- and yours truly, the editor of this compilation, is from the city of gardens and pubs, Bangalore, India.
(Editor, FOS Press)
They are searching...
Searching dreams in a country of the blind.
They make illusions...
illusions that make their sight.
They invented silence...
Silence that fissures eardrums…
A Review by Prof Jeanne Emmons (Ed. Briar Cliff Rev.)
Percussions, a Mystic East Anthology, is a new collection of poetry edited by Debashish Haar and featuring poems by Haar, as well as Jim Dunlap, Robert Jude Forese, Joseph armstead, and Richard James. Although three of its poets are from the United States, another from Australia, and only one from the “mystic east” of India, the collection has an international flavor and, at times, a mystical flavor.
Of these percussionists, Jim Dunlap is the most hard-hitting, with poetry that explores the deleterious effects of humanity on the planet, including destruction of the rain forest, war, and global warming, and overpopulation. The poems weave together complex images and show an attention to form through the use of rhymes and fixed forms such as the villanelle. Dunlap’s dark message can best be summed up with the question “How can Heaven abide us?” from his poem “L’Essenteil est invisible aux yeux.” However, he seems to embrace a more optimistic personal vision when, in “Oedipus Wrecks,” he embraces the healing power of love.
Forese’s poetry is more personal, more subjective, more abstract, and less formal. His vision tends to leave behind the literal world and inhabit a dreamier realm, full of saints and goddesses and metaphorical battlegrounds on which his conflicts play themselves out. Like Dunlap, however, he views mankind as a “ghastly creature,” though “some fight to remain kind.” This dark vision is balanced by a desire to return to the lost paradise and a hunger for the divine, as expressed in his poem “Heavenly Shoulder.”
Joseph Armstead’s poetry also examines the fallenness of humanity and its distance from the divine. It is a poetry of mean streets, including violence, and addiction, and these realities are at the same time vividly realized in the literal imagery of the poem and couched within a wide-angle historical and cosmic context. Thus the personal and the historical, the ordinary and the apocalyptic are compressed together. Modern gangsters are seen as descendants of Masai royalty and Armistead draws parallels to the ancient Greeks Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. The jagged dysfunctions of modern life are juxtaposed with the divine, just as one of the poems suggests that broken gemstones are mixed with shards of glass. These jazzy poems are reminiscent of the beats and win their way from brokenness to beatitude by facing the ugliness squarely and moving through it toward wisdom. Armstead writes, “Everything is meaning, I let myself stumble, dimly, into believing.”
If Armstead’s poems attempt to reconcile the flaws of modern life with a sense of meaning, Richard James’s poems create an enclosed biosphere in which the world was never fallen. Although his poem “The Garden” refers to the eviction of humanity from paradise, this group of poems seems to imply that return to the garden is not only possible but has already occurred, largely through the power of erotic love. The poems produces a sense of being in a protected, rarefied bubble, a “sphere of light,” and this sense is enhanced by James’s use of traditional forms and archaic diction. The ugliness of the modern world is invisible here. All is well, but be warned, as he says in “The Tide,” “This hour won’t last.”
Debashish Haar’s elegant poems close off the collection, raising questions about the nature of poetry and perception. The poems ripple the “blue screen” upon which things are projected and question the reality of love, war, and poetry itself. By showing that all is illusion, these poems come closest to representing the “mystic East” of the collection’s subtitle. Although these poems graphically demonstrate, like many of the others in this collection, the miseries of modern humanity, both personal and political, the poet makes us aware that these “realities” are presented through the flawed filters of human perception and of art. We wage war under the “illusion that hatred is love.” In our personal lives, numbness gives us “the illusion of love.” In this the poem participates by groping for its voice. The poem “searches for its form.” At the same time the poem “is a bond” and, paradoxically, “Poem is the fire that incinerates the bond.” In perhaps the most haunting of these poems, Haar states “I am not present on this page.” This sense of a consciousness operating at a distance, aware of the illusory nature of reality is pervasive. “I can see better with eyes closed,” says the poet.
Haar states in “Blood is Splattered on a Parchment,” “The poem is a drum of liberty” and, in his introduction, he calls the poets of this collection “verbal drummers.” I would offer that they actually represent a range of sound and quality, from tympani to tambourine, from xylophone to triangle to marimba. This variety means there is something here for everybody. One will come away challenged, called upon to confront the human condition, question one’s perception of it, and, at the same time, find meaning in it.
Prof Jeanne Emmons (Ed. Briar Cliff Review)
A Review by Journalist/Writer Marie Wadsworth
In "Percussions," you have a rebel, a romantic, a Gothic moralist, a naturalist and an academic.
This poetry anthology features five poets Jim Dunlap, Robert Jude Forese, Joseph Armstead, Richard James and Debashish Haar, most of whom I've read on the Internet. Poets who I consider to be among the best of our time.
Dunlap's style can be compared to Dylan and Steinbeck. He has a very cynical voice and his poems speak of the destruction of nature, demise of society and the flaws of mankind. He doesn't see change, yet he challenges all to incite change, to rebel.
Dunlap's poems are a warning of the continuing downward spiral of nature, society and mankind. They are a reminder that we are responsible for the world. An example of this can be seen in his poem "Here There Be Monsters":
"Here be monsters
Look for them in places high
and in places low.
Never forget what they are
For they will never forget and will destroy you if they can
Here be monsters."
Following the rebel is the romantic Forese.
Forese is not the sappy love sick romantic but his style is a dreamy ballad of the soul. His words are light, playful and vibrant. He invites readers to explore a world filled with color and life.
Forese's poems have heart and hope for the future. They are abstract in that they are based on those intangible things you can not see -- dreams, creativity and imagination. Things that Forese feels makes life more interesting, want to wake up in the morning and keep going. An example of this can be seen in "Within This World":
"In this world we grow
We learn what there is to know
We exchange the light to learn
Inspiring, desiring the sojourn
We never imagined we could dream upon
Within this world
I dream of sharing each mind
Hoping to find
As many of my kind
To share the next world we live within"
Next comes the Gothic moralist Armstead. Much like Coleridge, Aesop and Joseph Campbell, Armstead poems uses mythology that includes a moral. He captures the epic struggles of man and nature. He slushes through the horrors, despair and darkness that exist in each of us.
Armstead creates his own haunting myths in epic style. Like myths, his poems are man's way of trying to explain and understand their world. An example of this can be seen in his poem "Causation":
"Give me a moment.
Let me catch my breath.
We are all links
in the same
We are all scared
at the sacred orgy."
Then there's James. I must admit I am not as familiar with his work as I am with the other three poets work. James' style is reminiscent of Emerson and Thoreau.
Like these transcendental poets, James turns to nature to find serenity and beauty. In his poems nature helps him and the reader transcend to a higher state, to a utopia. An example of James' love of nature and its transcendental power can be seen in "The Garden":
"We gathered flowers in the rain,
Dreamt up loving things to say
That would soothe our mortal pain,
And return us to our play.
In the sky appeared an eye,
Smiled down upon our lives.
And whenever we would cry, remembered something pure survives."
Last, but certainly not least is Haar, who is also the editor of the anthology. Haar's style can be compared to Hawthorne. His work is very academic, intellectual and surreal.
Reading Haar's work is appreciating fine art. His poems are like a painting spilling out on the canvas, or looking at a piece of artwork. He mixes a mirade of color and mediums freely into a creation that is a harsh commentary on the world or an abstract reality filled with beauty and passion. He lets readers see or feel what they want in his work.
Haar tends to blend aspects in a variety of disciplines from scientific, liberal arts, history, art, romantic, Gothic and epic. He blends these elements together so well that they compliment each other, it's almost as if they belong together. An example of this can be seen in his poem "Transfiguration":
"Dream inscribes its letters, secretly,
in dawn’s safe archives, in invisible ink...
The darkest blood survives to birth
orchids of revolutions on the pages,
or the bubbling of cadence in gardens
of wounds that never heal..."
Throughout time, poets have been the voice of the people, anlysized the world, conveyed emotions and captured experiences we all recognize and relate to, and "Percussions" achieves that purpose and gives us much more. I describe this book as being "poetic excellence." The imagery and metaphors used by these poets appeal to the reader on a multitude of levels: Physical, metaphysical, intellectual, spiritual and emotional. This collection has something for almost everyone's taste so it will be enjoyed by all.
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Reader Reviews for "Percussions"