Tuesday, June 30, 2015

“Of Sound and Inner Light”: A Review of Healing with God’s Love: Kabbalah’s Hidden Secrets, Rabbi Douglas Goldhamer with Peggy Bagley

 (Larson Publications, 2015, the www.larsonpublications.com). ISBN 978-1-936012-74-9


This has been an impressive few years for Larson Publications. While continuing to bring the works of philosopher Paul Brunton to a new generation of readers, they have published such moving titles as Elaine Mansfield’s Leaning into Love, which recently won the Gold Medal Independent Publisher Book Award for Aging/Death & Dying and the book that is the subject of this review. Larson continues to provide its readership with profound and life-altering books on spirituality, ritual, healing, and enlightenment.

Healing with God’s Love is a practical, highly readable guide to healing meditations and rituals derived from the Judaic esoteric practices of the Kabbalah. Although I was familiar with the Kabbalah, and the Tree of Life (the Sefirot), Rabbi Goldhamer provides sufficient background and explanation for those not familiar with its principles and practices.

First, a bit about the author (who shares authorship with his wife). Rabbi Goldhamer, who also holds a PhD, helped to found Chicago’s Congregation Bene Shalom, is a professor of Jewish mysticism, and president of Hebrew Seminary. Nearly 40 years ago, he suffered from a disease called Klippel Trenaunay syndrome, a “debilitating vascular disorder which impeded [his] ability to walk” (11). Facing possible amputation of both legs, he invested his energy and belief in the healing power of prayer, and a year later, he was healed.

As a student and practitioner for 15 years of mantra-based meditation practice, using Sanskrit, I believe in, and have experienced the power of, the vibrational qualities of letters and words, and how they affect internal and external energies (the section in the book that deals with the “Law of Sympathetic Vibration” links these Kabbalist practices with a larger world of spirituality and science regarding the chakras and studies of the heart by organizations like HeartMath). Rabbi Goldhamer provides ample explanation and illustrative tables to explain the energies, designs, and meanings of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Although I was familiar with the sacred power of the Tetragrammaton (YHVH) because of the sound healing work of composer Jonathan Goldman, I learned a great deal about the other letters of the Hebrew alphabet over the course of the book.

Rabbi Goldhamer also educates the reader about the necessity of breath work for potent meditation, visualization, and healing, comparing the Jewish word for breath, Ru’ach, to the Chinese chi and the Sanskrit prana (crossing religious boundaries is a strength of the book, and reflects the philosophy of the publisher as well; more of this is needed in our divisive, intolerant world). Although my knowledge and practice of breathing techniques (developed in my spiritual practice as well as my work as a performer and in training actors) was helpful as I experimented with the meditations in the book, there is plenty of guidance for the novice.

Another strength of the book is the Rabbi’s continual discussion of the nature of (false) dualities such as spiritual and physical; male and female; God and man; reality and dream and other “non-real” states, rightly pointing out that such perceptual falsities put us in a fractured state where sickness and disease can thrive.

Everything I have mentioned thus far provides the necessary foundation to begin practicing the abundant meditations offered step by step in the book, and Rabbi Goldhamer not only reinforces these foundational elements throughout, he provides an overview, through anecdotes and scholarship, of a continuum of scholars and practitioners of the Kabbalah, including his own mentors, going back thousands of years, and describes how the meditations have been modified over time.

Other interesting aspects of the book are the Rabbi’s paintings, which are interspersed throughout; his touching upon gematria, the science of converting letters to numbers, which decode the deeper meanings in the ancient texts (for those interested in this fascinating aspect of sacred texts, I recommend Jesus, Sun of God, by Don Fideler); the notion that when you pray, you should pray as if your prayers are already answered (a main tenant of Paul Brunton’s “Short Path to Enlightenment”); and the holographic principles of the Kabbalah, which makes a good case for the relevance of quantum physics to our overall spiritual lives.

The highest compliment I can pay to Rabbi Goldhamer and Healing with God’s Love is that this will be not just a book read, reviewed, and put on a shelf, but a handbook that I will return to time and again throughout the rest of my life. For those looking for, or experienced in, alternative healing modalities or for storytellers and performing artists wanting to better understand sound and energy and how they can enhance the creative experience and the effect upon an audience, reading and working with this book is a must.



Thursday, June 25, 2015

Numinous Nature: A Review of Smoky Zeidel’s Sometimes I Think I Am Like Water

A few months ago I had the pleasure of reviewing Smoky Zeidel’s captivating novel, The Storyteller’s Bracelet, also published by Thomas-Jacob.
Sometimes I Think I Am Like Water, a collection of poems, once again showcases Zeidel’s craftsmanship and her deep connection to nature and the importance of ritual communion with it. What I enjoyed most was the way the poems create a dynamic tension between formalized religious rituals and the direct experience of the sacred and numinous found in spiritual practices tied to the flora and fauna all around us. It’s better still where they merge, such as in “Crescent Meadow,” with its “cathedral of Giant Sequoias” and the multi-level meanings assigned to “communion” in poems such as “My Heaven.”
“How to Read a River,” the opening poem, operates as an invocation. “You have to learn how to read a river/before you can safely cross it,” are the opening lines, and  the third from last is, “Take my hand and we’ll cross this one together.”
I am better for having accepted the invitation.
The poem “I’ve Always Thought I Am Like Water,” which reminds me of the sentiment and power of Pete Townshend’s ballad “The Sea Refuses No River,” contrasts the fluidity of water with the immovability of granite. Having grown up at the Jersey shore, by the ever-renewing ocean, I experienced this dichotomy when I moved to the desert in Arizona when I was almost 30, in the shadow of mountains that are unchanged after millions of years. That moment of realization, similar to the experiences in David Abram’s The Spell of the Sensuous, enlightened me to the profound power of our surroundings, and affected the path of my life in profound ways.
“Epiphany” is a poem that operates like a prayer, unlocking entry into a meditative state of connection with nature, where the participant can move to a resonant level of energetic collaboration where we “learn being alive is not the same as living.”
“Falling into the Stars” reminds me of the “focused nala” meditations taught by Hawaiian shamans, which help remove the perceived barriers between our senses and a full experience of nature, where we can hear the sounds beneath the sounds we normally focus on and see nature operating on an almost microscopic level (a psychedelic experience without the psychedelics). Zeidel writes of “setting my vision to soft focus,/ … soon I would find myself/sinking into the earth,/drifting into an open-eyed sleep.”
Again reminding me of Abrams are several instances in the poems, such as in “Falling into the Stars,” where nature’s artistic contributions to our everyday lives are invoked: “gray squirrels/chittering a lullaby finer than anything/Brahms ever wrote.” How different this experience of squirrels is from the way they are perceived in suburbia: as intrusive nuisances to be disposed of.
The collection ends with a final poem, titled “Hush,” that closes the circle created by the opening invocation. Having journeyed through the woods, conversed with the flora and fauna by the rivers and in the trees, contemplated death, and engaged in ritual, the author asks us to “Be silent./Be still./Listen./Hush.”
What a beautiful, all too rare sentiment from a writer and storyteller.



Saturday, June 13, 2015

Psychopaths, Puppets, and Presley: A Review of Eric Fritzius’s A Consternation of Monsters

(Mister Herman’s Publishing Company, 2015, misterherman.com). ISBN: 978-0692428511
By Joey Madia
In the novel Minor Confessions of an Angel Falling Upward, by Planner Forthright (which I was enlisted, against my better judgment, to edit some years ago), he writes “The most dangerous monsters … have no fangs or claws, drink no blood, live in Light, and fear no rosary or silver bullet symbols. … They wear lilac aprons and cook fresh okra in stain-proof, modern kitchens. Their names are recorded on a driver’s license and certificate of birth. They aren’t the swamp and coffin types. In certain tenuous moments they can be as sweetly consoling as the pie upon the sill.”
This same broad-based approach to what constitutes a “monster” is part of what makes this collection of ten short stories so appealing. In an age of zombies, vampires, and comic book supervillains taking over the pages of print and terabytes of the digital film age, it is refreshing to sit with a set of well-told tales and remember that Satan’s greatest achievement was making us think he doesn’t exist—although he does, everywhere, all the time, in the most unexpected forms.
Before I go into a little detail about my favorite stories (and, if it were not for space, I would talk favorably, rather than in passing, about them all), I have to mention that I’ve admired Eric Fritzius for many years. As a past president of West Virginia Writers, Inc. (for whom I’ve twice had the honor of teaching at their summer conference) and a continued driving force in their annual writing competition and efforts to promote the work of writers statewide, right along with his work in the theatre, Fritzius has been at the forefront of the arts in West Virginia. Add the fact that we both have selections in a recent collection published by Mountain State Press called Diner Stories: Off the Menu, and my desire to review his first collection of stories was considerable.
He certainly does not disappoint. Fritzius’s Vision and Voice are strong and the stories cover a wide range of tones and styles. I encourage the reader to NOT skip the Foreword (written by Rik Winston, host of UFO All Night), which is not only an entertaining read in and of itself, but sheds light on the choice of “Consternation” in the title. A choice that works perfectly well.
Many of the stories are West Virginia–centric in either their actual geography or in their overall tone and sensibilities. The companion pieces “The Hocco Makes the Echo” and “Puppet Legacy” are the best examples. Although not from WV, the past 8 years of living in a “holler” and traveling the state consistently made much of it familiar to me. “Old Country” has an interesting mix of the WV atmosphere with the Italian-American mafia, which is not as odd as it might initially sound. Thanks to the coal mining industry, many Italian immigrants found themselves in WV at the turn of the century, and the state has several excellent Italian Heritage festivals. The story offers a supernatural twist and plenty of suspense.
It is hard to do a book with a theme of the supernatural in WV without tackling the Mothman, as Fritzius does in “…to a Flame.” The legend of the Mothman, first seen by witnesses in Pt. Pleasant, WV in the late sixties, has been a rich subject area for supernatural researchers (I know several and have reviewed their books) and writers (I’ve used a variance on the Mothman in several of my works, and have a play based on Pt. Pleasant) and Fritzius contributes a well-researched and engaging story to the legacy.
Perhaps the most unique story in the collection is “Wolves Among Stones at Dusk,” where he tells the tale from the point of view of an alpha wolf in the desert. The descriptions of what the wolf sees, senses, and experiences are beautifully rendered. Fritzius’s technical skill is at full pitch.  The story pulls in a situation reminiscent of films like Two Days in the Valley and Seven Psychopaths, and manages a major mystery I am still trying to puzzle out a few weeks after reading.
Stories that are not WV-centric include one playing on myths of the Pacific northwest and another set of companion pieces, “The Wise Ones” and “Limited Edition,” which feature an intriguing old woman named Miss Zeddie at a cross-roads that connects a little taste of Stephen King’s Needful Things, a wonderful re-construction of Antiques Road Show, and a collection of well-drawn characters.
The subtlest monsters in Consternation appear in the story “The King’s Last Nacho,” which features an other-dimensional Elvis Presley watching Jerry “the King” Lawler (a wrestler who achieved fame through his “performance art” antics with Andy Kaufman) while a trench-coated agent (picture Eckhart from the first Burton Batman) from a highly bureaucratic Universe (that rich trope of writers from CS Lewis to Douglas Adams) bargains with the “other” king over stadium food. Like the Mothman story, this one shows abundant research on Fritzius’s part to give an authentic background of the intricate choreography and showmanship that is (quality) professional wrestling.
Collectively, Consternation operates to give us a nod and a wink about a much more sinister formulation of the Universe than mere angels and demons, which allows Fritzius the freedom to not lean on gore-n-scream horror tropes, but to play on familiar types and sub-genres in new, inventive, and entertaining ways.
For more information about the author and the process of writing A Consternation of Monsters, visit http://www.inspiration4writers.blogspot.com/2015/05/an-interview-with-editorauthor-eric.html and


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

“You Are Already Where You Should Be”: A Review of The Short Path to Enlightenment: Instructions for Immediate Awakening, a collection of Paul Brunton’s writings collected by Mark Scorelle and Jeff Cox

(Larson Publications, 2014, for the www.larsonpublications.com, for the Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation). ISBN 978-1-9360120-30-5

“You cannot acquire what is already here. So drop the ego’s false idea and affirm the real one” (p. 15)

I was first introduced to the work of philosopher Paul Brunton in 2012, when I was asked to review The Gift of Grace: Awakening to Its Presence. I found it to be a profound and moving read. The Short Path to Enlightenment, like the previous book, is compiled and administered by the Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation (PBPF) and it culls passages from some of Brunton’s earlier publications.

Paul Brunton (1898–1981) was, like Joseph Campbell, of whom parts of his philosophy remind me, a student of the world’s sacred wisdom teachings. Trying to encapsulate his well and broadly lived life is nearly impossible in a book review, so I encourage the reader to spend some time researching Brunton on his or her own.

The Short Path to Enlightenment reminds us that we are already connected to Source, or a higher self, outside of Time and Space, which Brunton labeled the Overself, so there is, essentially, no gap between who we are and who we wish to be. What we need is Awareness of where we are. What I find most valuable, 12 years on in my own spiritual journey, is that there is no goal, per se, in our meditations and other rituals and disciplinary practices. To look for such things on what Brunton defines as the Long Path is to take Awareness from the Now and mis-invest it in a results-oriented approach that often leaves us frustrated and feeling like we will “never get there,” like we are somehow less worthy than the Enlightened ones in books and ashrams. Brunton also situates the Short Path in a place of Non-Duality, where the Ego and the Overself are no longer perceived at odds. How much damage has been done by the misunderstandings in so many spiritual and religious practices that tell us, falsely, that the Ego must be suppressed, obliterated? Brunton renders this misconception both dangerous and unnecessary, and that itself is reason enough to recommend this book.

To produce this edition, the editors have taken passages from the “posthumously published material in The Notebooks of Paul Brunton” (p. 8). The source category, chapter, and paragraph number are provided for each selection from the source material, which is available at paulbrunton.org/notebooks. Brunton’s writing can at times be dense and uses an older, formal syntax often found in the works of philosophers, so I find the Larson/PBPF books to be invaluable in making this material accessible, no matter your level of knowledge and practice. The editors have organized the material into chapters with titles such as “What is the Short Path?,” “The Ego & the Overself: ‘What Am I’”?, “Warnings on the Short Path,” and “Practices for the Short Path.” They have also provided a glossary for terms that might be unfamiliar to the reader. I consulted it several times.

The Short Path to Enlightenment is arranged in such a way to provide a fluid and balanced mix of theory and practice, both because of the work of the editors and because of Brunton’s approach. For those new to spiritual practice, the passages provide all of the essentials of non-attachment, visualization, manifestation, and the necessity of stillness and silence, but also how they lead to traps in the Long Path, because we wind up being results-oriented (how long we meditated, how deep we went, what “mystical” experiences were had, etc.) and engaging in the fruitless, self-harming attempt to battle our ego into submission.

The chapter “Awareness: Who Am I?” offers answers to many of the fundamental questions we are pursuing through spiritual discipline. When Brunton asks, “Am I here in the fleshly body or in the invisible mind?” (51) it reminds me of Joe Campbell’s “Are you the light bulb or the light?” Another parallel with Campbell is Brunton’s exploration of the nature of Reality, wherein he says, “It is all like a giant dream, with every human inserting his own private dream inside the public one” (62). Compare this to Campbell’s often-quoted: “Myths are public dreams; dreams are private myths.”

Nowhere in the book is it said that the Short Path will be labor and effort free, which is important. The work still has to be done, and done continually—there is no sudden, lasting enlightenment—but the difference is that the work is done in the presence of the Source rather than in trying to get to it. The chapter “Warnings on the Short Path” is essential reading on the journey. I appreciated that Brunton was quick to say that this is a path with many merits, but that there are other paths as well. He does, however, caution against paths administered by a guru or other individual set up to be an expert (again reminding me of Campbell), and further cautioning that the experiences that the aspirant has along the way needn’t be legitimized by an outside figure to have meaning and value.

In the chapter “Experiences Along the Way,” there are several passages relating to matters of pain, fear, loss, and working through the times of darkness and confusion that come on the spiritual path. These passages are succinct and will be valuable to the reader as guideposts on the journey. I have experienced most of the feelings and thoughts that Brunton covers in this chapter and they can be daunting without a context such as he provides.

I hope that Larson and the PBPF continue to produce compilation guides such as these from the works of Paul Brunton. They are texts that I refer to often in my practice, and quote from at length in my writings and curriculum on storytelling and parallels between the artistic and spiritual paths.




Thursday, May 28, 2015

“Re-Use and Remember”: A Review of Eileen Tabios’ I Forgot Light Burns

(Chicago: Moria Books, http://www.moriapoetry.com/ebooks.html, 2015), ISBN: 9780991212132

This month marks 10 years since I wrote my first book review. In that time, I have had the opportunity to review multiple books by the same author (in several cases, different books from a continuous series, but not always). Of the 110 reviews that I have done, there are half a dozen reviews of books that Eileen Tabios has either written or edited. This has been an easy decision to make, because no two are the same. Tabios is not only a talented wordsmith, and visual artist of language—she truly is an innovator. She invented a style of poetry called the Hay(na)ku, which numerous authors have adopted. She writes poems that pull in visual and literary art, music and dance, and that employ an impressive array of styles. She can go from dense prose poems that fill page after page with compact images and historical/literary references to very brief forms.

Some months ago, I reviewed Tabios’s Sun Stigmata (2014), which was a reworking of the prose poems of her Reproductions of the Empty Flagpole (2002) as “written-sculpted” poems; she likened the process in her Preface to a sculptor releasing the image from a block of stone, echoing Michelangelo.

In her latest collection, I Forgot Light Burns, she is again using previous works by creating lines from reading through her first 27 poetry collections. In the “Afterword” she writes, “My recent work, ‘Murder, Death, and Resurrection’ (MDR), includes a … Poetry Generator [which] contains a data base of 1,146 lines which can be combined randomly to make a large number of poems.” I Forgot Light Burns was created from this method.  Each line begins with the phrase “I forgot” which was inspired by a Tom Beckett poem that began in the same manner (this is the multi-level genius operating behind Tabios’s work: in this case, reconstituted poems from her work, with the framework re-purposed from someone else’s approach as well as hers. As regards the latter, the framework also reflects her interest in cubism where images are fractured and still retain validity).

Poets have been either continually revising their poems (e.g., Whitman’s Leaves of Grass) or taking found texts, etc. to create works for a long time now (e.g.,  Burroughs and Gysin’s cut-up technique; note that Gysin was a painter). I’ve used old, unpublished poems of mine to create Mind Maps, a combination of phrases and images thematically linked on a page, and have turned some of my prose works into poems and poems into prose.

The result of Tabios’s approach in I Forgot Light Burns is akin to a series of sutras—of gemlike word-meditations with endless facets, meditations on color and sound and humanity. Sometimes concrete, oftentimes abstract. The following have been chosen to show the variations in effect:

“I forgot Red of cantaor’s voice becoming rusty nail pulling out of old board.” (1)

“I forgot how quickly civilization can disappear, as swiftly as the shoreline from an oil spill birthed from a twist of the wrist by a drunk vomiting over the helm—” (7)

“I forgot how gemstones can gasp—” (8)

“I forgot the revolt of the minor key—” (30)

“I forgot the mother snapped the umbilical cord with her teeth, strapped the newborn to her back, then picked up the scythe—” (31)

“I forgot I wanted to make memories, not simply press petals between pages of expendable books—” (42)


I Forgot Light Burns creates the kind of feedback loop between author and audience that I have found to be one of the bedrocks of Tabios’s work. It invites numerous textual and visual readings, and a meditation on the nature of what it means to forget. And to remember. And to reconsider the role poetry and poetics plays in the creative process.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

A Rousing Pirate Tale: A Review of P. S. Bartlett’s Demons & Pearls

(available through Amazon in paperback and for Kindle), ISBN: 978-1511572552
By Joey Madia
About 18 months ago, I reviewed P. S. Bartlett’s Fireflies, which I touted as a “novel that tells, simply and elegantly, the story of a family’s love.” Although family love is a strong undercurrent in her latest offering (the second book in the “Razor’s Adventures” series), Demons & Pearls is a much different read, taking as its subject matter the high-adventure world of pirates in the 1700s.
            Pirates are immensely popular these days, with the success of Black Sails on Starz, last year’s take on Edward “Blackbeard” Teach  by NBC, called Crossbones starring John Malkovich, and the buzz around the latest installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. There are also an increasing number of re-enactors and cos play participants donning pirate attire and a national “talk like a pirate day” that is always fun to participate in on Facebook.
            What is it about pirates? It's a treasure-seeking, freedom-loving Archetype, full of the romanticism that has somehow bled away (for the time being) from our notions of the Old West, and Demons & Pearls takes all the best of the romantic tropes and couples them with the requisite scenes of brutality, double-crossing and the denigration of women.
            Demons & Pearls centers around the character of Ivory Shepard, an independent, strong, and beautiful woman whose life has been turned continually upside-down at the hands of ruthless pirates. She has taken on the responsibility of protecting her three cousins from on-ship hazards as well as a dark, unseemly plot in Port Royal, Jamaica. Ivory, who is nicknamed “Razor” because of her weapon of choice, is a complex, compelling character. She walks a thin line between the male and female, and leaving behind the life that has caused her and her family so much misery and fully giving into it by becoming a pirate herself.
            Amongst the male pirates, there are lively characters with names like Rip, River, and Red, who are vying for the captaincy and working the pirate articles of conduct to their advantage, all while trying to make a quick buck and get a girl any way they can.
            Bartlett’s facility with written dialects is just as strong here as it was in Fireflies, with the “pirate-speak” with which fans of the period and genre are well familiar adding a fun and spicy rhythm. There is just enough to give an authentic flavor to the dialogue without bogging the reader down.
            Bartlett also demonstrates a working knowledge of the ships of the time, adding detail and authenticity to the tale.
            My one criticism is that I wish an editor had the opportunity to look over the manuscript to clean up some of the typos. The cover, typesetting, and overall design are appealing and professional and the writing is so strong that little things like a misspelled word or misplaced punctuation tend to stick out.
            In the end, Demons & Pearls made for an excellent read and the end has me looking forward to seeing what is next for Ivory and the pirates.

            

Thursday, May 14, 2015

“Thru the Windows and the Blinds”: A Review of Ed Baker’s Neighbor

 (1998/2015; Moria Press; paperback: http://www.lulu.com/shop/ed-baker/neighbor/paperback/product-22165655.html; free ebook: http://www.moriapoetry.com/bakerebook.pdf)

Some poets write in a minimalist, Eastern style that reads like a sutra or a prayer, as opposed to the at-times very dense poetry of Western writers. Poets writing in the former style give the reader ample space in which to graft their interpretations and morph their experiences with the work, allowing their poems to operate like myths, folk tales, and fairytales.

It was five years ago that I first reviewed Ed Baker’s work, when I received for the purpose his Restoration Letters (1972–1978)—co-authored with Cid Corman—and his solo book, Restoration Poems (1972–2007). I had been a fan of his writing and goddess illustrations for years prior, and since publishing that review, we have kept in touch through email.

Neighbor unfolds like a classic mystery (at least to this reader, who has recent experience writing in the genre) without a murder; a noir-ish exploration of the complicated relationship of the narrator and the troubled woman who lives next door to a house in which the narrator seems to be doing renovations.
The book is broken into five sections (Arousal, Calling Her, Shades, Fu:sion, and Intersections), the poetry interlaced with some of Baker’s line sketches, reminiscent of his well-known goddess drawings.
Neighbor quickly places the reader in the role of voyeur, much like watching a play in a darkened theatre, where the “fourth” wall has been removed and your participation in what unfolds is implicit rather than explicit.

With his ladder propped against a wall, the narrator let’s us look, vicariously, through a window. There is a letter slipped under a kitchen door.
“a woman waiting/invitations
getting to know her”

She tells him: “My father molested me when I was young”; the narrator later confirms she was “gone into by her father.” She is troubled, self-sexualized, and perhaps unstable.
Their “relationship” is consummated fairly quickly, the narrator describing her sexual appetites, capabilities, and her body with an initial reverence reminiscent of the poetry of Leonard Cohen and Rod McKuen:
“eaten her ripe fig from
tree of heaven between
her there      and me ...”

But over time, the metaphorical reverence melts away, and we are left with the bluntness of
“her/black/cunt”
Time passes, and my read is that the narrator is doing odd jobs for the neighbor. There is wiring and ladders, and continuous imagery of her garden, which she tends, while he works. Their relationship continues its dynamic tension, power constantly shifting, with the narrator professing:
“deliberately/I had kept/my/distance”
even as he tries to “get a better/view/across the way/for days shades/up/blinds open”
“the shade was up”
In both the poems and the illustrations (a series of abstract line drawings of the female shape, open and impressionistic) the window and its shades and blinds are prevalent. Both passageways and a code, these are the mechanisms of memory, as one is titled: “A Man Contemplates Sketch Pinned to Wall.”
In the sub-section “Calling Her” the voyeurism increases: “her shadow-dance/behind the drawn/shade”
Or later in the book, in a poem called “The Eyes”:
“shade/drawn/changes/meanings”
Throughout the book there is admonition by the narrator that the poems and drawings are most important; the imagination more real than the “reality” of the trysts:
“as this run of poems the
book is become yet to be
broadcast”

“it was never her/mound that he had/wanted  it was/
on a poem that/his words had made”

“he had drawn her/like she had/drawn him”

But the poetry then seems to work upon her, drawing her in (or out):

“…one line/sentence/gets/her/outside…
tinted windows/all around auto”

Although, as we see, even the windows of her car have the potential to hide her secrets.


Until:

“the shade/came down/abruptly/the window too/it was that final/these poems are/what/is/left/of the relationship”

Within the dynamic tension, there is at times overlap with the structural and sexual:
“back doorwide invitation to
enter her”

And Kafka-esque perceptual transformation, as he likens her to a mantis that

“sucked/him/ate/him”

As the book proceeds, the illustrations begin to change. Just before the section entitled “Fu:sion” there are two portraits that might be of the author/narrator. In the 1999 drawings, the female subject looks skeletal and monstrous.

By this stage in their voyeuristic dance, it is clear just how much she enjoys the game:

“her habit was/to watch him/watching her”

In the final section, “Intersections,” the narrator more fully articulates the somewhat selfish nature of the relationship:

“he had had his own ex-/pectations of woman/in the window”

and in the next to last poem:

“it/had/never/been/her/sex/that he was after”

In its movement from voyeurism, to passionate sex, to the roller-coaster of rejection and reunion, to the admonition that it was all about the art, Neighbor takes us on a journey full of shadow and mystery, leading the reader to the harder questions about why we do what we do, both as people and through our expression of our experiences as art.