Friday, August 6, 2021

Sweet Two-fer

John Sweet sweetly sent me a stack of his books when I featured him at Escape Into Life. I hoped then to read some of them this month for the Sealey Challenge, and it's happening! The beautifully designed chapbook famine (Leaf Press (2004), editor Ursula Vaira) has a gorgeous cover image, "New Shadows," via Artemy Levedev. It opens with a missing child, postered to the telephone poles of a small town and "the fact that love cannot / exist without fear." So it's a sad, dark book, reminding us

     how easy it was to destroy
     everything we had

     how much it felt
     like breathing

But if things are ugly here

     and not even dirty white light
     spilling from magritte's sky
     can make this great art

still, I can't look away. This reminds me of what Wren Hanks was doing in Lily-Livered and what my husband does as a painter: show us the darkness, trouble, pain so intensely that we don't look away, can't look away, and then, facing it, we might do something. And also what the poet Bruce Weigl said in his  poem, "The Impossible": "Say it clearly and you make it beautiful, no matter what."

I'm reading famine on Friday afternoon and in "the sky enormous over the human cathedral" it's "friday afternoon in / the house of empty truths." A little later, "a random progression" answers my hope that something will be done with "the knowledge that / nothing will be done." Nothing will be done about war, famine, rape, murder, the abuse of children in these dark Sweet poems. But the poems are so tender in the midst of despair, since "poetry is a useless weapon." Still, I feel the presence of hope, as in "the weight of the known world":

     and what i have
     in this world are the
     people i love and the ways
     that i make them angry

     the ways that
     we fail each other

     such simple acts of faith

Ah, so, of course, the second chapbook I've picked from the stack is bastard faith (scarspublications, 2017), and it's dark, too, maybe moreso. But it has this beautiful title in it: "one of us, speaking without bitterness to the other." I was thinking of that, walking home from a public hearing yesterday evening, how I'd like to speak quietly, without bitterness, with some of those who testified, to see, though we might disagree, where we do agree.

Today, I had a conversation with someone I do agree with (that we should all get vaccinated, if we can, and wear masks) about how shocking it is that decent people who love their kids don't care about other people. But here in "one for the drowning man" is a couplet of dark truth: "no one here is ever truly sorry / for anyone else's pain."

Oh, and what a surprise to find this couplet/question!:

     your job is to map the
     city of masks, but where to begin?

I'd say that makes this a Random Coinciday in the blog. Yes, bastard faith is a dark book that ends

     why do you keep
     begging for the truth if it's
     never what you want to hear?

after delivering lots of hard truths. But also this golden nugget of hope: "not every noble idea / has to be a lie." Feast or famine, how Sweet it is.

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