Far Out West

Clark Coolidge, Author Adventures in Poetry $12.5 (52p) ISBN 978-0-9706250-4-5
Coolidge is a train on a houndstooth track; riding the rails are two of the latest books by this prolific, beat- and jazz-inspired poet who has produced some of the most dazzlingly askew works of the last few decades. Far Out West is a mish-mash of old cowboy movies and the effect is like a burr under the ol' saddle. These odd, improvisational one-pagers suit the ragged edges of Coolidge's source material and do the dream-work of condensing half-remembered scenes into penetrating declaratives: ""the street is for dogs/ and for amplified visible harmers."" As the preface to On the Nameways Vol. 2 suggests, this follow-up to the 100-or-so poems published last year proceed from a casual mixture of dream and movie content two passive experiences that lock a body into ""receive"" mode and, as usual with Coolidge, whatever else is lying around. The poems address an insufferable America in a vernacular of the unthought, trying to keep up with the manifest destiny of instant innovation: ""there's just no stopping some turns/ of the plan/ of the lead of the land."" The surprises, the aural goofs, the jolt of the unapproachable all channel a de-romanticized, Kerouacian free-flow energy: a prismatic imperative to write with the fewest constraints, and in the most peculiar directions. It's a revolution in technique comparable to and familial with the improvisational thread of jazz, creating a tension between control and freedom. These poems are not redemptive, but their pursuit of uncovering, generating and producing, a relentless movement from one dry gulch to another is somehow pursuant to uncertainty ""stop merging with my line of march"" and briskly and wittily cut their way to realism. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 02/04/2002
Release date: 02/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Discover what to read next