Monday, April 8, 2013

Travis Blair's Little Sandwiches by David McLean (Book Review)

Travis Blair has a new collection out of erotic poetry and love poetry, it's all poetry that is primarily erotic in the sense of love, and it tells of the beautiful that lies hidden under the complexity of a simple life, from cooking eggs to having sex. 

There are even poems about Quaaludes, which one might feel are not part of the amatory life: 

I quit eating Quaaludes in ‘76
because they blew gaping holes
in my memories of California days
spent lying on breezy beaches
with a Kilgore Rangerette who
laughed at rapid-fire nonsense
spewing from my melted brain.

But it continues with: 

Sometimes my mind catches
blurry visions of the sun clinging
to my skin like spicy yellow mustard
and my old dog covering his floppy
ears with paws the size of Idaho,
looking at me too embarrassed
to say a damn thing.

and what is more about love than a dog's expression?

The poems are live and beat with vivid descriptions that show us how it was, how it is, as here: 

I remember you shivering and cold,
barefoot and wet, clothes clinging
to your skin, one strand of yellow hair
plastered against your face.
Your lips moved, mouthing a prayer.

I knew you were crying. Raindrops
and tears had coalesced. I wanted
to pull you against me gently, whisper
It’ll be okay, baby. But I didn’t.
That would have been a myth

In these writings we see how the world, plants and animals, is drawn into the poet's world that centers around honest sensuality, the simple physical where everything is related to sensation and touch, the most intimate and genuine knowledge. This is from the stanza that immediately precedes the last two quoted: 

It rained last time I saw you.
I remember every detail--
grey afternoon belching thunder,
neon green ferns dripping raindrops,
ducks splashing pumpkin colored feet
in puddles, hidden pond-frogs practicing
their poignant croaks.

Almost the most intimate and personal poems are of encounters that never are, such as a woman seen reading a book on an airplane whom the poet never meets. Here one  thinks of Rousseau, and how simulated satisfaction through fantasy, admittedly through masturbation, is better than the real thing since in dreams one can have anyone and be or do anything. And these poems, at which Travis is so accomplished, speak of potential, of what might have been, such as “Flying to LA with Pablo Neruda”about what one assumes is a stranger: 

The book cover was red, dark
like her lipstick, and its poems
leapt from the page—
full of vigor that made her smile,

filled with love-making, I could tell
by the way she ran a finger
down the lapel of her blouse
as though the poet touched her
near her breast, and she
grew flushed. Breathing swelled
her chest in iambic movement.

I glanced at the title,
Veinte Poemas de Amor,
and arriving in L.A.
I bought it at a book store.
Now when I read poems like “Body
of a Woman” I’m transported
to a jungle or seaside Chilean town
with a woman, her dark red lips
a bonfire lit by Neruda.

Rousseau would have added “I immediately start jacking it like a bastard” but one feels that Travis, and the gentle reader of this review, would not.

Some of the poems contain a huge sorrow and nostalgia, a terrible sense of loss and a devastating beauty, I quote the following in full: 

On the Roof at El Nido

What I remember of the last time
we held hands—
Cobblestone streets beneath a rooftop café.
Tables covered with white cloths,
wine glasses, small mysterious forks.
A view of the bay, heartbreakingly beautiful.
Evening sliding in on a wind warm and smoky.
You saying, over risotto and poached rockfish,
your flight will leave Sunday morning.
That black dress plunging open at the neck.
Your figure slender as a reed,
soft as a daisy chain.
Silent waiters pouring red Chianti.
A plane climbing from the airport,
its shadow moving swiftly out to sea.
The lump in my throat.
My jaws clenching, unclenching.
Your fingers tightening around my hand.

I have quoted a lot here, simply because there is much to quote and because the poems speak better for themselves. They are simple and yet detailed in the truth and precision of their depiction of the women he has known and loved, and the feeling, unusually for love poetry, always rings true. This book is soon to be released and definitely worth buying. 

Author bio:

David McLean is from Wales but has lived in Sweden since 1987. He lives there with partner, dogs, cats and computers. In addition to six chapbooks, McLean is the author of three full-length poetry collections: CADAVER’S DANCE (Whistling Shade Press, 2008), PUSHING LEMMINGS (Erbacce Press, 2009), and LAUGHING AT FUNERALS (Epic Rites Press, 2010). His first novel HENRIETTA REMEMBERS is coming in 2014. During 2013 a seventh chapbook SHOUTING AT GHOSTS is forthcoming from Grey Book Press. More information about McLean can be found at his blog

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