Nothing Happened and Besides I Wasn't There

Mark Wallace, Author Edge Books $9.5 (48p) ISBN 978-1-890311-01-8
Despite the garish title and the presence of jokey-sounding poems like ""Shit in My Spacesuit,"" there is an overall politeness to this book, evidenced even in its carefully reversed alphabetical arrangement by title, and in the poems' consistent return to the humble, sensory, immediate nexes of innocence and experience. The downgraded, truncated talkies of this debut bring to mind Robert Creeley more than any younger contemporary, employing short, on-kilter lines like steel strings played with a plectrum. But whereas Creeley's broken English inevitably sidles through loss and illness and exclusion, Downs finds insouciant sexual and spiritual pigeonholes for his abused metrical memos. One section of the serial poem ""Abortifacient"" reads: ""come between us and suck/ the unthinking/ from our blood/ the beginning of/ goodness and the end/ between us that/ we cannot unstick our selves/ one from the one/ from another/ it is a pleasure to suck/ the blood from/ the blood/ that runs between us."" Excepting Pentecostal glossolalia, it is rare to find disjunction and complexity pitched in this manner toward spiritual attainment. In Downs's writing, the humbling effects of the omnipresent everyday, and the moral ambiguities of the brand-name marketplace give his speaker the demeanor of a zealous, defrocked televangelist, one who might write: ""the eagle/ flies on Friday & I/ abridge this/ life in prayer."" Like the hurried sincere messages on the backs of old fleamarket postcards, these 60-odd short lyrics land in your lap with romantic effusion and post-modern self-effacement. (Nov.) Forecast: Downs has his own micropublishing house, Buck Downs Books, and is active on the Washington, D.C., poetry scene. That scene is anchored in part by Bridge Street Books, which is run by poet and Edge Books publisher Rod Smith (Protective Immediacy). This beautifully produced collection will do very well in the D.C. area, and within the alternative poetry diaspora.
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 06/01/1997
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