I’ve always maintained that the art form known as poetry is a perplexing mystery. The mystery today is why it even exists in our plastic, high-tech world. It doesn’t sell well yet small boutique publishers continue to publish it. Even hotshots like August Kleinzahler don’t sell very well, not compared to any other genre. And no one I know reads it. Okay, if they do read it, they won’t admit to it.
But poetry keeps on keeping on. It’s been around for thousands of years and it looks like it will be around for thousands more.
My question is why? Answer: Because for some strange reason poetry speaks to the human heart, to the soul of humanity. It’s like music. Everybody likes music. And really, what are songs? They’re just poetry set to music. All those corny country and western love songs, about someone done someone wrong; all those bumpin’ rap songs, about luxury whips and bling and big-bottomed women; all those rock songs, about who knows what; all of them are simply poetry ensconced in music.
Essentially, everybody loves poetry, they just don’t know it.
Which brings me to my topic: the poetry of Christopher Locke, whose latest book of verse is called Waiting for Grace & Other Poems. The title is a double entendre Grace is the name of Locke’s daughter, and Locke is enjoying her presence in his life. Yet at the same time he knows that she will leave one day. She will grow up and go on to live her own life. Locke is waiting for that dreadful and wonderful moment. The other part of the double entendre is that Locke is waiting on Grace, religious grace, that he hopes will enable him to endure the joys and heartaches of life.
Locke finds a way – through the medium of words – to express what we all feel, but are unable to express:
I knew then that
I would lose you, someday gone
to the world of men and promises,
dreams opening like doorways
to light, and could picture myself
already trailing from you, unable
to take your hand…
That’s what Locke does best. He expresses his feelings through the music of words. And that’s a gift that most people don’t have or haven’t developed. It’s some form of ESP: the ability to translate random and contradictory emotions into the discipline of an art form.
The subjects of Locke’s poems are as varied as snowflakes. Sushi, rats, time, mortality, egg salad, the weather, etc. He takes each one and adds anthropomorphic parameters to it, making it seem important. And in Locke’s efficient hands, they are important. For they speak of life and all its variables piled upon variables. For example, one of my favorites is “House Arrest.” The last stanza says it all:
Last day, booze gone, we watched
a pirated DVD, Martin Sheen rolling
atop his bloody sheets in ‘Apocalypse
Now,’ looking for a way out. Both
of us knew what that felt like:
the walls closing in as a ceiling
fan slowly unwound its blades.
If you haven’t felt like that, but been unable to describe it, then you’re not human. And if you can read those words and not recognize yourself at some point in your life, then more’s the pity.
Locke’s verse is like that all the way through this collection of poems: delightful and superb, if somewhat irascible. He demonstrates no concern for anyone’s vanity, even his own. And he doesn’t indulge in what-if speculation. He simply sees and feels and expresses what he feels.
So if you’re in the mood for some-word music, pick up Waiting for Grace. You might discover some emotions you’d misplaced.
There’s a lot to be said for feelings.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=1625490151][amazon template=iframe image&asin=0374534810][amazon template=iframe image&asin=0060540427]