Saturday, July 19, 2008



Rafetown Georgics by Garin Cycholl
(Cracked Slab Books, Chicago, 2008)

Garin Cycholl’s Rafetown Georgics is a luminous journey with some of the most elegant diction I’ve noticed from reading through various contemporary poetry collections. This book wouldn’t be so successful, first, without the author’s capacity for deep observance—a strength that roots this collection into the illuminating flowers of individual poems. The observations proceed through some wondrous alchemy so that when poems result from the standpoint of memory, text sings:
The land, a haggard trophy
(from “Antebellum Christi”)

No stern slap of language, but a field
planted with stones, even the words broken, me
a lingering god.
(from “Dundas and Rafetown, 1997”)

“Daddy,” she says, “the sun hands the bird from my eyes to yours”
(from “Topics in Experimental Photography”)

among the fencerows,
the man’s voice crying,
“cut the bacteria out of
my foot; cut the moon-
light out of my eye”
(from “Fld.wrk”)

Something happens when one recalls versus observes: here, it’s absence as presence. There’s a current of sadness combined with longing through these poems, and it’s this combination that unmoors the poems from observations into something more moving, something where one sees the wrestling for significance, something that opens a door for reader empathy:
                  these aren’t experiments
or landscapes or a matter of
words (the light never “lands”
or “uncovers” or “washes”) the
light’s a tattoo—shadow, sub-
stance—the city, a geometry
without an eye to thought
(from “’Eleanor’”)

It’s mentioned in the author’s bio that the “Rafetown Georgics spring from an area along the Embarras River in southern Illinois.” Yet these poems, while rooted in place, expand place:
the mind into torn paper;
the sound stranded there—
take your guitar to the West
Side, tune it under the neon
canopy                   the wires
stretched tight where the
first shots were fired

is only the drama of objects
and you, watching”
(from “Chicago 53”)

There is a drama, indeed, that unfolds in the book and which exists as much in the mind as in the physical terroir identified as its spring-source. What is marvelous is how the reader(s) is allowed to take part through stellar poetic techniques—lyricism, imagery, evocative diction…

And then, jazz. And the blues.

Ultimately, I’m left grasping unsuccessfully (though in a good way). I finish the last page of the book and feel the urgent need to re-read. While this effect is not unusual in reading poetry collections, the urgency of its call is, for me, rare. I end the book, at the first read, knowing I’ve missed much. Or, that there was too much to grasp at one sitting (reading).

Fortunately, the compelling—beautiful!—language makes this invitation to return to the book a welcome one: from “flames                   flames                   flames”:
she plants red blooms in sky
sky waiting to cohere


Eileen Tabios does not allow her books to be reviewed in Galatea Resurrects, but she is pleased to point you elsewhere to Anny Ballardini’s review of her I Take Thee, English, For My Beloved in JACKET, as well as Allen Gaborro’s review of her The Light Sang As It Left Your Eyes in the Philippine News.

No comments: