Thursday, March 5, 2009

James Darman "getting fat on thin lines"

James Darman
getting fat on thin lines
book reviewed by David Mclean
buy at Lulu

James Darman's first chapbook is a book really, 64 poems that have a hangover, that are contemptuous of workaday values, poems that drink in the morning – and there is a little Mick Farren and the Social Deviants flavor here.

Humanity in this book is


strung-out
like a vacant sign
between the grave
and the ever expanding
atomic funeral pyre
(from “where the logic of the sun fails”)


as the poet's voice describes himself, it's a world where home improvements are drawing the curtains, turning up the volume, and drinking beer not coffee for breakfast. Ambition and industry are misplaced.

Though Darman distances himself from the Buddha

i’m sure that rock
is still there
in the middle
of Seattle’s
Volunteer Park
you can have it
and if you see
that cocksuck’n
Buddha
tell’m
i’m still pushing
the broom
&
drinking wine
(from “there is no Buddha here”)


it's nevertheless a Zen message of illusions covering emptiness that is taught here, as this poem, cited here in its entirety, illustrates


CHASING THE BUDDHA

so drunk
i put two legs
into one pant leg
and fall

i have grown fat
and dumb
while men
trot off to war

This whole book contains poems that teach this message, so it may not be for everybody, but it's a book of poems for everyone who likes to see if he left any cans open in the fridge when he wakes up, or any cans at all, and then stoically buttons up to go buy some more if there are none left.

leave me alone
w/ a empty stomach
and a bottle of wine
i’ve got my own
suicide machine
to oil
(from “staying oiled on an empty stomach”)


In my humble opinion these poems are pretty much masterpieces of a nihilism that is not inhumane but just lets things be, like Sartre says in Being and Nothingness, there is no moral difference between a man who is a leader of nations and a man who gets pissed as a rat alone in his room everyday, except the man who gets pissed as a rat isn't a pin in the ass for everybody else like the leader of nations. So these poems tell us how to let go of stupid and boring societal norms and chill with your kitties and a few beers. (Why this American obsession with wine? Ah, sorry, Coors and Budweiser explain that of course.)

We are just this lack of substantial being and a creature shaped by nothing in the way Sartre tells us.


it was here today
and its here now
as i take the last
paper and roll a fat stogie
as i pound down the last drops of
wine
and it will be in here tomorrow
waiting in the corners
like the spider’s web
(from “in the presence of absence”)


And Darman is more than message and attitude, though that's there too, there are poems here of rare beauty.

from the porch i watch the birds
rise and fall
above the cypress trees
their wings silent
as the branches
swaying
their morning whistle gone
an evening symphony
of nada
they
rise and fall
(from affirmations of the negative on the wings of birds”)


In general they balance each other, each of these poems has a message and does not rely on its beauty, but it also has an aesthetic value so the message doesn't take over the show. Probably the best new chap I've read in 2009 so far, so do buy it, it's available at lulu just now at this link.