Angles of Incidents by Jon Curley
(Dos Madres Press Inc., Loveland, OH, 2012)
Something I noticed immediately about Jon Curley's Angles of Incidents is how it shows the poet to have an affinity for short lines. Not all the poems contain only short lines, but it's something that came up emphasized in my read. It's easy enough to provide examples as this collection also includes three hay(na)ku sequences; the hay(na)ku's basic form is a tercet with the first line being one word, the second line being two words and the third line being three words.
Here's an example--an excerpt from "Metafizzles":
mind wears visions
grace for All
weal like wheel
onto mire (mine)
from thorn crowns
in the hereafter
saints just selves
It can be difficult to write long hay(na)ku sequences (i.e., more than one hay(na)ku tercet chained together) without occasionally giving too much weight to merely-connective words like "and", "the" or "a". Of course these pop up in Curley's hay(na)ku but they're not as stressed as more significant words. The result of each word being significant is that the poem achieves what Jose Garcia Villa (and other poets) claim about effective poems: Each word must be necessary.
And such necessity exists in Curley's other finely-achieved poems. Here is one poem which I present in its entirety as there are so many pleasing lines one might choose to excerpt (that beginning: “Silence absorbs the reach”!), until I just decided to share the whole thang of it:
Silence absorbs the reach. The whiteness
of these salt flats tends to emptiness.
Sky scans, seeps into the great distance.
Lie like the burdens of rock, christened
into a furious rusk, breeched
into crystallized counterparts,
glistening like mica,
be like the sense of this silence,
itself unsure of itself.
Now along the casual main grain
we find perhaps the striations
in the surface, forwarding a new face
whose sculpture is etched
into a view salt-licked
that desolate ground space
as more likely than any
other feature or future that the rain-
soused mind could grow or imagine.
We reel in the expanse and find
masks discarded on the mountains.
Gods of rock found eternal time
to masquerade as the land they created
here. Homage to their work
is the etchings we leave as footprints,
as lived, markers, as signatures
that express our silent appreciating
of craft resembling nature.
The (or, a) key to Curley's prowess is his ear. There's a fine music throughout the poems, though the sample I share below rests more overtly on sonic play:
E. fleur essence
Ever for vengeance
(from “Stuttering Alphabetic Codes: Modern Multilingual Historical Edition”)
I don’t say much about the content (so to speak) of the poems because Curley’s poems can be considered open-ended, which is to say, the reader is allowed the space to interpret the poems as they wish. This is hearkened within (yes, I’m now speaking to content so I’m so expansive I contradict moiself) the stellar, almost-title poem, and last poem in the book, "From This Angle". Here are excerpts from this poem which offered pleasurable reading:
From this angle—
containment and not alignment
seems a torrential sin
what other ways to find means
that give shelters, not quarantines?
From this angle—
the angles of incidents
are the angels of incidence
and they address each
other like lines ever-
measuring the degrees
to which we are
histories and imaginaries,
gaining ground and air,
and all between
As a result of turning “angles of incidents” into angels of incidence,” I recommend this book. And I would have recommended it even if the poet hadn't cheerfully waved at me--and Marie Howe, Samuel Menashe, Seamus Heaney, Michael Heller, Ed Foster, Ron Silliman, Mark Young, Ann Lauterbach, Les Murray, Michael Gizzi, among others--in the witty poem, "Profiles." Of course, you must read the book to know what I mean--and I encourage you to do so!
Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects because she's its editor. But she is pleased to point you elsewhere to recent reviews of her books. the relational elations of ORPHANED ALGEBRA, a collaboration with j/j hastain, is reviewed by Joey Madia at New Mystics Review; Edric Mesmer at Yellow Field 6; and Zvi A. Sesling at Boston Area Small Press & Poetry Scene. She also just released a new poetry collection, 5 Shades of Gray (i.e. press, Florida, 2012).