Mephistos

Michael McClure. City Lights, $16.95 trade paper (156p) ISBN 978-0-87286-728-4
McClure (Of Indigo and Saffron), a lesser-known Beat poet, remains entrenched in the once-radical poetics of mid-20th-century modernity—and in superficial experimentation that no longer exudes power in its deviance. McClure introduces the collection with an unnecessarily explanatory foreword, remarking that these poems “are like the energy of consciousness moving vertically.” That pronouncement is a death knell for any actual energy within his words. His hopes only emphasize how weakly the lines ring, as in, “You and I are a candle/ on this dark, scarred end-table./ EVERYTHING IS BEAUTY// EVEN THE LOSS// of dear ones.” Like the foreword’s declaration, McClure’s seemingly random capitalization only detracts from the force of powerful words: “vibrant,” “haloes,” “paradise.” A film of desperation clings to the poems, to these gratuitously capitalized words, like a shout for relevance. Only in the section of eco-poetic haiku does the poet’s ability to capture imagery develop, and without pretense. The form molds to his style, and the visuals, rooted in McClure’s deep kinship with the natural world, appear in stark beauty. “LOVELY ELONGATED LOPING/ COYOTE/ speeding/ to the beach dunes.” McClure’s dated idea about what he writes (“Projective Verse”) muddles his work, but his affinity for capturing the simple and divine qualities of nature is where his legacy will live. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/17/2016
Release date: 11/01/2016
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