Sunday, July 5, 2009

James Darman's getting fat on thin lines by David McLean (Book Review)

James Darman's getting fat on thin lines
Reviewed by David Mclean

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

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
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


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
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
their morning whistle gone
an evening symphony
of nada
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 poetry chapbook or book I've read in 2009 so far, so do yourself a favor and go buy it, it's available at lulu just now at the link below:


But you'll be needing plenty of beer and wine too, to do right by it.

Author bio:

David McLean is Welsh but has lived in Sweden since 1987. He lives there on an island in the Stockholm archipelago with a woman, five selfish cats and a stupid dog. He has a BA in History from Oxford, and an unconnected MA in philosophy, much later, from Stockholm. Details of his available books, chapbooks, and over 850 poems in or forthcoming at 370 places online or in print over the last couple of years, are at his blog at Mourning Abortion. He never submits by snail mail since he has little money and since he loves, or at least doesn't have anything against, trees. Among things forthcoming is a chapbook called nobody wants to go to heaven but everybody wants to die from Poptritus Press in summer 2009 sometime. Early 2010 an anthology called laughing at funerals will be appearing with Epic Rites Publications, there's also a 50 poem chapbook from Epic Rites called hellbound which is on sale now. For Epic Rites he edits the chapbook series and the e-zines lines written w/ a razor and the thin edge of staring, as well as selecting work for the radio network.

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