Thousands of years ago, when we first met, when gods and goddesses laughed and roamed fields of giant clover to the monotonous throb of primeval honeybees, we sat by a secret pond at night. The stars were the same then as they are now, but the constellations were different. You dipped your hand in the water as if to study an undersea plant or fish, and I dove in to do something but then I couldn’t remember what. And when I came up, the constellations had changed into Virgo and Scorpio and big and little dippers. The old cosmos was gone. That quickly a new age had begun, a human age of quiet hunger and missed connections. Dark and silent, we retreated into the ferns and mosses and heavy branches, the moon more lovely and distant than ever, and I felt your hand still wet with the possibilities of that lost moment.
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Review of Robert Okaji’s chapbook of poems, I Have a Bird to Whistle (Luminous Press, 2019, 27 pages), by Gary Gautier
Beautifully crafted, each poem is an uneasy marriage of image and concept, of fullness and emptiness. Each is suggestive without yielding a fixed meaning. Meaning, like the sense-rich images, follows geometric curves through space to the vanishing point. The logic moving through each poem is like an extended haiku concatenation, jumping from one discrete image or cluster to another sometimes unrelated one. So far, so good. But the discontinuity, suggestive as it is, is sometimes too much, and I wish Okaji had given us a more stable throughline to hang onto as we move across the flow of language. When I set these prose-poem paragraphs against Okaji’s pre-existing work (see his blog here), for my taste he flourishes better with the more traditional poetic line structure. Still, those who revel in the sheer beauty of poetic language, in the compression of image and concept, in this case coming in bite-sized, one-paragraph chunks, will be pleased with this short collection.
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