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.
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.
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.”
In a Sea of Language
The white shark is a shadow
Swimming faster, more
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
Drops a curtain over us all.
Illusions smooth the road to ruin.
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
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?
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,
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.
And four short sonnets from RIM ROCK (2010)
of the painter
in a studio,
I am dazed
by this round
thing we stand
on, the whole
of night out
in our way.
so much at stake
in human encounter.
So much home
in your hair
NOT YET, YOU GOOFBALLS
I’ve gone to
to stay here
in the lower reaches
of the poetry
guile can only
get a guy so far.
I’m almost ready
to give up
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 between these
we fall for
meaning, build on
memory, leave a record
for those who will