Monday, January 19, 2004

I want to lift my head up from Herbert Marcuse a moment to put in a plug for my friend Brian Teare's astounding book, The Room Where I Was Born. It's a heartbreaking read, a dazzling grenade of autobiography, fairy tales, Southern gothic, gay eroticism, Catholicism, kudzu psychoanalysis, and the inextinguishable, inextricable forces of poetry and love. There are remarkably presencing scenes and narratives here, but also always a spirit that questions the premises of narrative and the difficulty of tellng the truth about one's experience. The experiences he has to process in this book are painful, even lurid, and their sheer density is matched by language that raises (lowers?) that experience to the level of myth. But that critical spirit I mentioned is never far behind. In a way the book's cover captures what I'm trying to say: a photo of a tree and its roots, the trunk above the title (like a movie star or director) and the roots (the key grip, the gaffer, the guy who does bullet squibs) beneath it. Only here it's the black and tangled roots that are the myth, while the upright tree is the luminously critical spirit of the survivor/poet. It might also be a phallus: there's some hot stuff in here, whatever your personal orientation.

Here's a little taste; one of the poems called "Circa":
when the split began
inside the thought; when

the idea—family
turned against itself,

was it father put
his spirit in a bottle?;

or mother wished him there,
a genie in reverse?—

either way he drank
and gave his fist his wife

enough to knock her up
with lullaby: tree-top

and rock-a-bye and broken
bough: from it fell

a child unbidden. She slept
for years—he found her mouth

a house and with the child
climbed inside—for years

she dreamt and this was marriage:
her long tongue a husband.

Her mind among her child—
Bleak wit skewers into myth and the strange logic of prepositions or their absence: "gave his fist his wife" "knock her up / with lullaby: tree top" "among her child." And Brian Teare is not a man afraid of semicolons. "I write out loud your sexed and crowded mouth." Check it out.

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