A handful of new poetry books by California poet Jack Crimmins have come across my desk and there is some solid work to pass along. Two I've had the chance to look at are very good, indeed: Blue Cat Buddha and Summer / War / Haiku.
Blue Cat Buddha consists of 5 poems in memory of Beat great Jack Micheline. The lengthiest, "Poem With Blues Harp" (key of A), is one of those few modern pieces that actually bridges the gap between poem and song. Even rarer is a poet who tries to capture the "simple" rhythm of blues, though many have tried. Crimmins has done it in this fine piece which is worth the price of admission. Here's the poem that finishes off the collection:
I Speak of The Jazz Poets
---------------after a Micheline painting
you call me brother
and I say truth is our song
no more waiting in shadows
religion is crisp fire
and it is not religion we seek
oak trees in the hills
the hills themselves
your hands covered with paint
cats all around
the horses are spiritual beings-- you said
no one believed you
it's not about belief------------ you said
you said water and paint and luck and her eyes
and all our friends scattered
bring them together---- you said
write them a poem of madness
write them a poem of winter rain
write them a poem of horns beyond thunder
write them a poem and tell them
I was right
poetry and painting and the life of the spirit
and her eyes
in the music
of everythingJack Crimmins
The second chapbook by Crimmins, Summer / War / Haiku, contains numerous haiku about art and war in the universal sense, not so much apolitical as beyond political, returning to the human in all things. Here's one that tugged deep at my heart strings:
San Francisco Haiku #7Wind grips the wet coast.
Seven hills teach us about
gull sorrow and air.Jack Crimmins
And one that returns us to his ongoing interest in Micheline:
Jack Micheline Painting Early At Susie's Ranch
That one will cost you
more because there's three things there.
Dog. Sun. PianoJack Crimmins
Seems to me, since poets are so notoriously under-compensated, that Micheline has come up with a sliding pay scale for poets as well as artists: payment by the number of things you stuff into a poem. Seems fair; the poor poet can try to catch up on back rent knowing what's needed.
Might even encourage some moderns to put something in their poems.
Dog. Sun. Piano.
I'm not sure where these chapbooks might be obtained (N. B. abebooks sounds like a good bet, plus see Jack's comment to this post) or what the prices might be. Blue Cat Buddha is 12 pages and Summer / War / Haiku is 20 pages. Both are published by Low Tech Press (P.O. Box 191 Kenwood, CA 95452), so that would be the logical place to start. And don't be fooled by the name: the chaps are simple but functional in design and execution, a very nice addition to anyone's shelves.
the dog stops barking...
translated by David Lanoue