Ardor: The Book of the Dead Man, Vol. 2

Marvin Bell, Author
Marvin Bell, Author Copper Canyon Press $14 (92p) ISBN 978-1-55659-081-8
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With the rhythms of a modern-day prophet, Bell creates a universe of one, recasting Whitman's Song of Myself to mirror the present age. Dense and image-rich, this follow-up to 1994's The Book of the Dead (Vol I) appears 30 years after the publication of his first book, Things We Dreamt We Died For. Starting from the Zen admonition, ""Live as if you were already dead,"" Bell suggests that ""The dead man is the light that was turned on to study the dark."" In the nearly 40 two-part poems, Bell leads a tour of hell-on-earth, examining the thin line that separates the real from the unreal, the illuminated from the dim, the living from the dead. ""The dead man lives in the flesh, in memory, in absentia, in fact and/ fiction, by chance and by nature."" Such atrocities as the war in the former Yugoslavia and the famine in Somalia are fresh territory for the dead man's witnessing. He's also found among the ordinary (""Socks and handkerchiefs pile up in his cabinet and fill his thoughts"") and the unusual (""He bribes the guard to better examine the Pharoah""). Charged with making the darkness visible, Bell's Dead Man sometimes glows with an eerily illuminating light. (Sept.)
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