LYRIC COMPANY Mark Granier “Sing, Words”


That you may survive / those star-grazed years after I’ve / gone back to where I’m going: / / of a song, dead air, my dark star / set in the glimmer,ess hush,/ cool enough to touch. // Sing, that something remain / of these epic, mundane / conversations hoofing it down my back // clicketty clack —that you may hit or miss / with a flourish, a backdraught, a hiss// like intaken breath. Life itches to get out/ of its mildewed coats, / glint with the moats turning//in a slanted beam— O sing / the slow schoolboy’s daydream / counting them in

FRAME OF REFERENCE In the aesthetics of happening, there is a surplus of showing, and this surplus is often the most unnoticed. We are not in an economy of lack. It is not an economy of struggle merely. There is an energy of being that is surplus to struggle. While there is struggle to be sure, the struggle itself comes out of surplus, not out of defect. In the aesthetics of happening there is a kind of ontological generosity— there is a sensuous giving that is more than the measure of the economic or utilitarian measure. There in the flesh there is too much already from the outset. WILLIAM DESMOND The Intimate Universal, 265.

So another day dawns of the madness of our President. As usual I listen to last night’s Rachel Maddow show and she’s asking her guest do you think that we should listen to the patient on steroids about his mental competence. The ironies do not go unnoticed. Last night I found something to write about, a neglected bent paperback by Mark Granier, a poet I don’t know but whose poetry seems appropriate just now.


The first poem of FADE STREET (SALT pbk 2011) addresses the language of the poet after the poet is dead. That’s a neat way into a certain uncertainty, metaphysical perhaps but unavoidable and oh-so traditional.

The title “Sing, Words” inaugurates a tradition once again (a prayer to the poet’s muse in a prayerless time) and needs the reader’s complaisance. Which is secured by the downrightness of the first line, “That you may survive.” We’ve had occasion to note the theme of SELVING, and feel reassured. A little equivocity enters forthwith: “those star-grazed years” suggests the after-time as embodied by the traditional image of stars grazes on time itself, a pretty turn of phrase. This poets voice is ludic not ludicrous.

And we’re in. A richness of figure follows. Nothing strange, really. Default nihilism about the afterlife, as neatly expressed as the traditional setup. We know where we are. We are being entertained by a very smart poet, an Andrew Marvell of our postmodern worldview. Cool!

As the lyric proceeds in narrative, things become more dialectical, more public/personal with the mention of the first person “my back.” We overlooked as stuffing “my dark star” but this is intimate. The poem turns serious, or more serious: “down my back” Is followed by the gist of the prayer. It ends with the flourish of analogy (always the sign the lyric has entered the last loop of its journey and must be mindful of meaningless self-referential self-circulation).

Who are you to say such things?

The poet responds to the momentary breakdown (call it the aporia, the blockage in the porous between opened by the poem between its poet and the immortals) with a given bit of proverbial say universal wisdom “life itches to shed its itchy coat” which yields to another set piece, the poet as dreaming youth, but “hopefully” by this time the lyric’s “charm” has opened us to the rightness of this image.

If we are to think about that creativity other to our mortality, the finesse of this complex image does “sing,” the slow daydream “counting” not as idealistic self-progection in a disputable eternity but the world-making game of “counting THEM in.” Who they? Why, “the glinting motes.”

The final, patiently painted image, which started by picking up the pieces off the cutting room floor, holds its own, for me, as the voice not so much of Mark Granier (I must find a copy of his SELECTED) as of the lyric itself. I think, that is, of the motes in the light of, say, a Vermeer. Which makes me happy. “There in the flesh there is too much already from the outset.”


Author: Tom D'Evelyn

Tom D'Evelyn is a private editor and writing tutor in Cranston RI and, thanks to the web, across the US and in the UK. He can be reached at tom.develyn@comcast.net. D'Evelyn has a PhD in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley. Before retiring he held positions at The Christian Science Monitor, Harvard University Press, Boston University and Brown University. He ran a literary agency for ten years, publishing books by Leonard Nathan and Arthur Quinn, among others. Before moving to Portland OR he was managing editor at Single Island Press, Portsmouth NH. He blogs at http://tdevelyn.com and other sites.

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