Notable Henchmen

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by Geoffery Young

Since the 1980′s, Geoffrey Young has asked friends to supply him with drawings for his books of poetry. Realizing that book covers can be the masks for their content, we’ve asked Geoffrey to share some of these “masks”, accompanied by a selection of his own poems and sonnets.

 

For three weeks in July, these drawings and books will be on exhibit at Janet Kurnatowski Gallery. There will be a reception, July 8th, from 7-9 pm. On Sunday the 10th at 7 pm Young will read from these books.

 

cover by Carroll Dunham

cover by Morgan Bulkeley

cover by James Sienna

cover by Mel Bochner

 

EXTEMPORARY INCARNATION

 

The quotidian intoxication of my style
Favors gesture over statement
Mixed diction and shifting tone over simplicity,
Invites dreams, collage bits, and touches

 

Of the bizarre to enliven it, not being unkind
To whimsy and happiness, nor shy of fury,
Ecstasy, or despair, when it’s a question
Of singing. To be delicate yet moving, to inhabit

 

Stillness with confidence, to dare banality with banality:
To capture experiences that are conventional
And brutal, knowing “scrupulously intelligent”
From “incandescently alert,” and “chockablock

 

With artifice” from “fake.” To be ardent on behalf
Of the reader I channel tradition by reshaping it.

 

(unpublished)

 

From the book NOT TWICE ENOUGH (2009)

 

JACARANDA OVER GREEN

 

To set this utterance straight
Is to know that joy is art’s essence,
Grief its main story, baloney its
Main taste. I hang on because I’d fall

 

If I didn’t. Mondrian straightened
The curved branches of a tree. It wouldn’t be art
If he’d had permission.
Never shy away from “People of the Future.”

 

She may have put the knock on my worst
But the movement here is benjamin constant.
The day grows dark with the effort
To paint dollar signs where my ears should be.

 

“I don’t date my works, he remembers saying
To a mirror. “I hardly feel I write them.”

 

POST-IT

 

In a Sea of Language
The white shark is a shadow
Swimming faster, more
Purposefully jawed,

 

More outlawed than any other
Abstraction. Beware the sky’s reflection,
Beware the hour, beware the storm.
A marlin leaps & twists to shake a line

 

Or crashes back into the water, fighting
The poem. The white shark, fear-
Less in its field,
Outruns the current, reminding

 

Everyone who writes
To give it all away.

 

WITH HIS OWN PROPER IAMB

 

If the heart is monogamous
Yet the mind’s a bordello
What turmoil the real world
Becomes when ours ceases

 

To hold our attention.
Or is there space enough
Between a snake’s tail and jaw
For us to sleep, write, and empty

 

Our minds of witless sympathy?
Justice is capricious.
The immediate world’s
Lyrical inexactitude

 

Drops a curtain over us all.
Illusions smooth the road to ruin.

 

AFTERLIFE

 

You mean all
Those “loved ones”
Who drove you nuts
When they were alive

 

Starting with your super
Critical mother, your
Absent father, your sadistic
Brother and your hysterically

 

Vain sister, you expect to be
Reunited with
Upon your death?
Are you out

 

Of your mind
Or just plain crazy?

 

DO NOT REMOVE

 

My name is Albert Oehlen.
Many nuts have admired my rough cheek
On the Avant-Garde channel.
For this slice of L-I-F-E, however,

 

Do not remove the “F.”
Let the spice of creation defy taste with truth.
I’m for an India and China
Of more than outcrops and bicycles

 

But I would hate to miss my chance
To influence the past. I’m fond of porcupines
And Proust. Here comes “The End,” now.
I’ll pile this jumble of thoughts

 

Into a canyon of canvas, consecrate
These trees with roosting vultures.

 

From a little book called TOPIARY HANDCUFFS, this sonnet:

 

WHEN THE AIR OF THE ARBITRARY IGNITES

 

The universe is nothing but a furtive arrangement
Of particles. Chaos claims all. Humans will disappear.
Meanwhile, feeble light traversing empty skies
Reaches our eyes. Human action is free and stripped

 

Of meaning. Good & evil are Victorian fictions, culled from
The past. All that exists is egotism. Cold, intact, radiant.
Though short-lived and vain, sex provides meager
Compensation. Transcendence, invented by well-meaning

 

Drudges, claims the uniqueness of the individual. What joy!
We remember our own lives only a little better than we do
A novel we once read. Yet our species, barely different from
Apes, carries within it noble aspirations. O beat that drum,

 

Wistful hope, that something survive, even if that some-
Thing is not ourselves. Give up your belief in love.

 

Two from FICKLE SONNETS (2005)

 

THE VERY DARKNESS

 

Do you remember
Your early twenties
Feeling a general
Desire to flow into

 

All things, to lose
Identity in landscape,
In the bamboo grove, in
The night sounds in a

 

Country house, to feel
The tiny cell of the
Central pronoun melt
In a guttering flame, to want

 

To become the very
Darkness lit by fireflies?

 

SHEET MUSIC

 

you want infinite jest I give you
pale fire you want blue poles
I give you double elvis you want
sheet music I give you palm fronds

 

you want mules on parquet I give
you paving stones on greene street you
want the words NOW APPEARING in neon
I give you light on a fly’s wing

 

you want bulbs on a windowsill
I give you ping pong and popcorn
you want over the rainbow I
give you queen jane approximately

 

you want your life in the balance
I give you a drink in each hand

 

Two sonnets from THE RIOT ACT (2008)

 

WHY I DON’T WRITE NOVELS

 

A man approaches a closet,
opens the door, reaches in,
selects a shirt, slips it off
the hanger, replaces hanger

 

on rod, turns from closet
with shirt in hand,
and without shutting closet
door, walks into bathroom,

 

stands in front of mirror,
puts shirt on, watches
his hands buttoning it, loosens
his belt, tucks shirt into pants,

 

tightens belt, smiles at
the glass, leaves the room.

 

BECAUSE OF YOU

 

A few years ago
I charged into each day
for the game of it,
not sweating the past,

 

not constructing
a future, but today,
because of you,
I want to drive

 

to Coney Island
in a light snow,
cross the beach
to the water’s edge

 

and watch the flakes melt
on contact with wet sand.



cover by Eric Fischl





cover by Warren I Sensee





cover by Geoffrey Young

cover by Geoffrey Young

 

And four short sonnets from RIM ROCK (2010)

 

TE DEUM

 

How
non-global,
how
old-school,

 

and how
isolated
is the
image

 

of the painter
alone
in a studio,
painting

 

a picture
with paint.

 

REDACTION

 

I am dazed
by this round
thing we stand
on, the whole

 

of night out
there waiting
to get
in our way.

 

There is
so much at stake
in human encounter.
So much home

 

tangled
in your hair

 

NOT YET, YOU GOOFBALLS

 

I’ve gone to
extraordinary
lengths
to stay here

 

in the lower reaches
of the poetry
scene, but
guile can only

 

get a guy so far.
I’m almost ready
to give up
everything

 

and join the great
ones in oblivion.

 

A PANCAKE YOU’LL FLIP OVER

 

Facts of life
and death remain
the same. We live
and die, we love and

 

grieve, we breed
and disappear.
And between these
existential

 

gravities
we fall for
meaning, build on
memory, leave a record

 

for those who will
forget us.

One Response to Notable Henchmen

  1. Rosemary Volz says:

    While separating the ordinary from the excellent, I put all your
    poems in the excellent pile. Where have you been all my life. Bravo!