cover image On the Nameways Volume Two

On the Nameways Volume Two

Clark Coolidge / Author Figures $12.5 (128p) ISBN 978-1-930589

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.)