Monday, June 8, 2009

Two Jacks or Better

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 everything
Jack 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 #7
Wind 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. Piano
Jack 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.

Just saying.

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...
lotus blossoms!
translated by David Lanoue



Charles Gramlich said...

Had to grin at the sliding pay scale.

Greg said...

found a copy of "Summer / War / Haiku" (signed) at AbeBooks, thanks to your review just ordered it.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Hope you enjoy it, Greg ... lots of interesting, different haiku I think you'll like.

Jack Crimmins said...

Don,thanks so much for the write up. Jeff Maser, the great bookseller in Berkeley, usually has my books up at Abebooks. The poem "I Speak of the Jazz Poets" can also be found as a broadside at City Lights Books,SF;
and in my book,"Kit Fox Blues", at Small Press Distribution.
By the way, I'm in California. Thanks very much for your work in poetry.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Good to hear from you, Jack. Corrected the California snafu, plus inserted abebooks and a note to see your comment in the post.

You should be getting a packet of goodies from me soon.

Cheers ...

Jack Crimmins said...

Don,I'd just like to add that I think your blog is one of the best around. I'm thrilled that you've featured Jack Gilbert quite a bit; having spent a little time with Jack I know he'd be touched. Your mixture of poetry from various places on the poetry wheel and wonderful music videos is incredible. Muddy Waters and James Cotton, Sonny Boy Williamson II (your post led me to find Sonny's great "Bye Bye Bird" on youtube), on and on. I'm thankful to be a part of the scene. Also, if folks are in the SF Bay Area,go check out Jeff Maser's poetry warehouse. He and Andrea have tons of modern and post-modern poetry plus broadsides, etc.
Its my favorite place for books.
Call ahead. There's more there than is on abebooks or Jeff's site I think.
There's a write-up on Jeff & Andrea at dbqp visualizing poetics blog.
And, thank you to Greg Schwartz for buying Summer War Haiku!

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Jack, I linked up Jeff shop online to the Bookshops section along the sidebar on the right. I'm determined on this blog not to link to amazon and try to spread the biz amongst independents.

We've been to SF a handful of times - our fav US city - and always do a bookshop tour. We'll make sure to include Jeff's next time.

Finally, your kind words are deeply appreciated.