Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Time in Xanadu by Lars Gustafsson

Readers might recall my disappointment with two volumes of poetry by Gustafsson earlier this year. This volume was recommended by Amazon, and I decided to take a chance. This is a nifty volume of poetry published by Copper Canyon Press. I subscribe to their catalogue, and, if I had noticed they were the publisher, I would have waited and bought it directly from them.

This collection of poems is really rather good. The poems still have that sparse, Scandinavian style, but there are plenty of touches of humor, as he juxtaposes profound insights with ordinary images, events, and ideas. Here is a good example:

“…it’s nice sleeping with cats
in bed, somewhere down
in the foot area just where the toes
cautiously peep out into a nocturnal world
like watchman on the wall
of a very old city
Sleep City on the Plain of Dark.
The cat then at a suitable distance
but in a kind of understanding
with the toes, these ten watchman
against the dark, chaos, the void,
and the sound of the distant train.” (73)

Anyone who sleeps with a pet – cat or dog – can recognize the images here. Settle in after turning off the lights, wiggle and slide under the covers. A foot comes near the soft, still body of a pet, and then the warmth they exude touches the toes, the feet, and travels up the leg. Wonderful stuff.

This is one of those books that requires an immediate, slow, second, or maybe even a third read. One at a time, moments before the light goes out.

--Chiron, 9/10/08

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