Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Review of Three Poetry books by Jack Galmitz

 (available in paper format from the publishers or at Calameo.com as e-books)
By Joey Madia
As Founding Editor of www.newmystics.com, a literary and art site that hosts pages for nearly seventy authors and artists from around the world, I have the opportunity to give the creators of innovative and thought-provoking poetry a forum for their work.
As often happens, in cultivating the e-publisher/author relationship, I am asked to review additional work by the author not hosted at New Mystics. In the case of Jack Galmitz, when links to his e-books were provided, I visited Calameo.com and chose three titles—Objects, Yellow Light, and A Semblance—for review. There are several other titles from this author available there as well and you can find more of his writing at Scribd.
In our correspondence preparing for the launch of his New Mystics author page in February 2014, Galmitz said that his poetry is based on “the indeterminacy created by ambiguity—sometimes two words that are joined together when left alone on the page makes one realize there are many ways to take them and this leaves doubt and makes one look and be aware of what is there and this is the purpose I think of art.”
This philosophy brings to mind other authors whose works I have reviewed and New Mystics hosts, such as Ed Baker, Mark Sonnefeld, and Eileen Tabios. They ask much of the reader, and offer much in return.
The first book, Objects (Gean Tree Press, Aberdeen, Scotland, 2013), opens with a quote from John Cage, whose book Silence is a meditation on music, life, Zen, the classification and growing of mushrooms, and myriad other subjects. Objects is minimalist—there are most times no more than three or four words on a page, operating as sutras or koans. An example:
“an inchworm dangling arms”
and on the facing page:
“standing still”
To contemplate the arms of an inchworm, or the idea that it is “standing” is to extract the endless potential in half a dozen words and to face the fact that our perceptions—and one of their modes of expression: LANGUAGE—are all too rushed, shallow, and imprecise.
[An alternate reading, as suggested by the author, is to break the sentence into its different images and contemplate each separately: an inchworm and dangling arms; also, one might not run the two pages together, but keep them distinct]
Since I mentioned Cage, here is another for contemplation:
“house of concrete music.”
Another, “absorbing a book without words,” evokes childhood storybooks and the medium of film, where image is everything and words are subservient and hardly needed at all. A painting, a symphonic movement, a facial expression—all of these are books without words. All tell us stories if we are still enough to listen.
Yellow Light (yettobenamedfreepress.org, 2013).
A Yellow Light, according to the forward, refers here to the traffic light cautioning one to slow down, or to proceed with care. This is very much in line with my thoughts about how the poems in Objects operate.
One of the first poem-lines is “A brick wall raining.” What does this “mean” to you? I had the image of a wall being sledge-hammered or blown to bits in an explosion, but one might just as easily consider a brick wall and the fact that it is raining. You might then picture the wall with rain pouring down on it.
Or not.
That’s a lot of potential for just four words.
These poems operate as a language-symbol Rorschach, or, again, as in Objects, like a sutra, koan, or meditation.
Here are two others on which to meditate:
“crowds on the street performance art”
“walked by the dog”
Both of these, because of my gestalt, my work, my alignment with the Universe at this moment in time, are resonant. As a writer, director, storyteller, and actor, people as performance art, whatever the place or context, is a constant condition and a rich bounty for my perception.  As an artist with deep roots in social justice, the image of the dog walking the owner (or the tail of the dog wagging itself; or the image of the dog chasing its tail, as used by Jack Sarfatti to describe the ring singularity of black and white holes in space) is resonant and inspiring.
The poem-line “Crumpled paper music” became synchro-serendipitous as I crushed the paper with my notes for the previous section and heard the music it made as I read this phrase on the next piece of paper.
“seeing rabbits go to work”—are we the rabbits? If the rabbits are actual rabbits, and they are burrowing under a farmer’s fence for carrots, is it work to them at all?
There is a section toward the end of the book with all of the words typeset with their letter-sounds stretched out, as though the yellow light has become a deep, deep signal to slow the blood, the brain, the boundaries way, way down. It took some patience, some further investment to read them. It was well worth it.
The book ends with two prose poems. The first, “Like Lichen,” is one long sentence, again forcing the reader to slow down and proceed with caution, lest the meaning be misinterpreted or lost without the grammatical meaning-mapping that punctuation provides.
[there again goes the music of the crumpling paper]
The second prose piece, “The Strings to Heaven,” reads as a meditation on the relationship of humanity and techno-scientific “achievement.” One grew smaller, more naked, more isolated, as the other grew, as if the current trajectory demands that one or the other ultimately prevail—like in the nightmare tales of Asimov, Dick, and Wells.
The third book, A Semblance [read as “assemblance” if you’d like], begins: “Poems for the ordinary mind.”
Like the image of the traffic light in Yellow Light, this evokes a position of engagement in the reader at the onset. An ordinary mind—meaning: Don’t dig too deep? Take things at face value? Don’t seek connection, but engage with the words in the moment, in isolation, as they are? And what is a not-ordinary mind? An extraordinary mind?
I have chosen two poems from A Semblance to list here, free of commentary, and in closing:

The savior
showed up
the day after

Take off your shoes
Before you enter the house
It is courteous

[one final sound of the music of crumpling paper, to accompany the ending clack of the keys]



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