Saturday, August 27, 2011

Three Books: Simmons Buntin, Robert Bly and Primo Levi

The poems in 'Bloom' by Simmons B. Buntin are beautifully grounded in the desert southwest. A several page glossary follows, listing plants, birds and other creatures as well as geographical features. The natural specificity pulls the poems into this life among the natural world, not just at the edge of it. Many poems touch on Buntin's love for his children; they are tender and give the stories a greater call. This is a wonderful collection, poem after poem.
I picked up Robert Bly's 'Reaching Out to the World: New & Selected Prose Poems' at the White Pine Press table at last year's AWP conference. Forgive me for thinking it was a slow starter. Some of the first poems are from Bly's early writing, and their bluntness surprises. But the writing transforms before you, and becomes lush and rich, like being lowered into a dream.
Between these books I read Primo Levi's 'Survival in Auschwitz.' I purposely sandwiched Levi between poems; still, I had several sleepless nights. Whenever I think I understand the scope of the horror, I find I had yet fallen short. I think we make a mistake in forgetting the black-hearted live among us. We see many in our country slipping deeper into obsessive, intolerant religion, superstition and hatred, and their desperation to gain control is worrisome. I resist the Holocaust metaphor, since what happened there deserves its own memory. But the brutal impulse crosses the lines of time and nation.
So does the impulse to create and imagine and love, and I thank Buntin, Bly and Levi for the gift of their words.

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