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Tom Chaney: The Narcotic Moment of Creative Bliss

Of Writers And Their Books: The Narcotic Moment of Creative Bliss. Review of Asparagus Seems Deaf, a collection of poems by Charles Dowling Williams of Munfordville. This column first appeared 28 May 2006.
The next earlier Tom Chaney column: The Diligent Heart: Margaret Vance Anderson

By Tom Chaney

The Narcotic Moment of Creative Bliss

"There is a touch of ice in all that burns." The heat of summer contains the promise of winter and death. The passion of love implies the survival of life through love won -- then lost by death or turning away.

These contraries are the business of the poet.

Every new poem is a search for the answer to a riddle. The search is one the poet makes. He plumbs the sensuous language in a search for meaning, for order and reason, for significance in an otherwise chaotic, haphazard, tragic world.

The resolution of conflicting vision is the poet's work. And a very private work it is. What joy to see that private vision assume by craft an affirmation that the poet is willing to share!

Charles Dowling Williams of Munfordville has chosen to place in our hands the yet emerging work of a lifetime of his learning how to see.

Harmony House Publishers of Louisville has, this month, issued Williams' collection entitled Asparagus Seems Deaf. Those of us who have known his poetry for decades think it is about time he let these loose in the world. At least in my own case as a reader -- not a crafter -- of poems, Williams' learning how to see illuminates my own dim vision.

Were you to come to The Bookstore, I might sit you down and begin to read. As I read aloud, Williams' voice takes shape in my mind's ear -- colored with my own poor speech.

But you, too, can taste and see and smell this familiar scent.
The Narcissism of Barns

I too have known myself in barns,
helped tobacco leaves to order
with the moistenings of my palms,
shaken seedheads from my trouser cuffs,
heaved the fine June hay, and
stacked alfalfa high as rafters go.
But I have done the other thing:
Gone to summer's balmy fields
to tomahawk tobacco stalks and split those stalks with spears,
driven hickory sticks, hoisted golden burley toward a silver sky,
summed-up August in the call of sweat and fire,
and loved there the flexing of my own arms.
I too have joyed in the narcissism of barns.
And in the coming together of love and loss, I would share
A Oneness Won in August

A oneness won in August
scent of Heaven in the air,
of beauty, pure and pinnacling
and a hundred kisses, soft as dawn
through a north window.
At noon we finally parted
with one deep kiss, strong as iron.
You walked around the corner, vanishing, gone.
coupled with September's news
A Numbness in September

A numbness in September
arrives with early autumn fire.
The elm trees are burned around their edges --
as your body burned in a fiery crash.

Catastrophe dashes August hopes of oneness.
They consume me with the bitter chill of winter,
Hell's certain ice.
No one poet is entirely like another, but when I read Charlie Williams, I am reminded most of Walt Whitman -- not such an exuberant "Yawp" -- but something of the same sensuous use of language -- a similar exultation in the peopled world.

Arranged chronologically from roughly 1969 through 2005, with two exceptions at beginning and end, the poems exhibit a growth in the facility of imagining the contrary world -- a celebration of the narcotic moment of creative bliss.

This little book is a beautiful thing in itself. Its texture and feel engenders expectation. Alas, its issuance is also a cause for mourning. Harmony House was founded by that masterful photographer, Bill Strode. Asparagus Seems Deaf is his last publication. Mr. Strode died of cancer just last week.

Tom Chaney can be found telling stories, planning his next meal, and occasionally selling books at
Box 73 / 111 Water Street
Horse Cave, Kentucky 42749
Email: Tom Chaney

This story was posted on 2013-05-26 01:15:15
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