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Mark Irwin, one of the first Lighthouse Writer’s Studio guests way back in 2004, has a new book out, and Amazon.com so nicely mentioned that to me a few weeks ago as I went looking for something to buy.
So I bought it.
His sixth book of poetry, intriguingly entitled Tall If, is a amazement of riches.
Irwin’s poems are not narrative, nor are they easy prescriptions for how to live one’s life, nor are they bland confessional glimpses. In truth, they are hard to describe. The poems work in a profound way; they are like speech from somewhere otherworldly, a pastiche of voice and memory from the ether. Part active dream, part deep image, part mined interior thought, they exist on the divide of clear image and the ever-transforming targets of knowing and desire. Somehow Mark has constructed the poems so that when the last line is read—either aloud or in one’s mind—the silence that follows is ominous, palpable, and wonderfully strange.
Here’s just a taste:
In the room lit by one candle in a white building,
you could hear the whining of jets and the shivering
roar of trains. We sat in a circle as the man
handed out slips of paper and asked us
to write down the hardest thing in each of our lives.
Then he asked us all to return at the same time, one
week later. We did and sat in the same places
as he picked up the pieces of paper and began to read:
“forgiving my brother who raped me when I was
ten”; “saying goodbye to my mother as she slowly
died”; “watching the hate in my son’s eyes as he left
and never returned.” When he finished reading, all
the pieces of paper became birds, that room a dark forest.
We returned each week to hear them screeching, singing,
screeching, as the sun rose and kindled the bright leaves.
It seems like the poem might be an allegory of a writer’s workshop, but then again, the poem slips out of such an easy equivalence. As a good poem should.