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Saturday, December 10, 2005


Jonathan David Jackson

I could sure do with one of these every week or at least twice a month.

You are one of the poets who I go to when I want both the thingness and the emotional possibility of the world rendered without clutter, without the pandering for or to "innovation" or "experimentation" without academese or ghettoese or the trappings of some poetic clique's current fancy.

Your poems--be they ekphratic, like this poem that burrows into an photographic image to tease even deeper human potential; or filial, like your poems from some years ago about your father, grandparents, and music--are marvels...

...marvels of phrasing, scene-setting, physical action and psychological restraint. They do not prophetize (my coinage) or push towards a cloying sense of sycophantically-longed for ridiculous "greatness." The language is deeply social yet surely not as "high-minded" as our one great social contemporary poet today (Anne Winters).

We both share this instinct for near documentary, psychography, and ekphrasis in our poems. I am so happy to find that your ekphratic investigation extends to photographs as well as music.

Of course, the poem's first title nicely steals words from the beaten car's tags in the Mann's black and white photograph: "Gorgus." In both the photograph and your poem this particular orthography is something more than a neat, wry linguistic corruption...

...a subtle wink towards the politics that make the "mispelling" of "gorgeous" hold the satirical force of both a class and a gender critique.

"Gorgus" is just too close (to my ear and my consciousness) to "Gorgon," the Greek-mythic female creature who, I like to say, was abused enough by the "gods" to be blighted with a body that killed against even her own wishes.

Of course, the manner of death that a gaze at the Gorgon (or Gorgons in some myths) afforded the unlucky scopophiliac involved the ultimate visual horror (and the greatest visual pleasure): to have movement stolen from us; to be made still; to be turned to stone; to be stilled and stolen; captured.

The myth of the Gorgon is probably an early (very early) commentary on the visual politics of painting and photography--and especially photography because "realism" is so deeply implicated in the medium itself.

Monster, monstrosity, action, stillness...

The poem mitigates these resonances by beginning, I feel, where the photograph--the scene-stiller--left off: by restoring action to the interpretative world drawn up by both image and poem.

You begin by unpacking what really might be going on--quite subtly--in this active, oddly--no, beautifully--caring exchange between the two white girls (blonde even through the black and white image) so touched, it would seem, by disadvantage.

And this final observation is to me how this image has everything to do with your social activism.

What a blessing to have you as my friend.

PS: I finally finished my website's basic design. Funny how I went back to the original template. I'm glad I saved it.

Jonathan David Jackson

...whoops: I psychoanalytically misspelled "Gorjus" and made it "Gorgus"...the sounds and the senses got the best of me. My observations still stand.

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