Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Picture With Moving Parts

Posted By on Wed, Aug 14, 2002 at 12:00 AM

This small book of poetry is an antidote to any number of misconceptions about the art of making language sing. Writers who steer the genre into such dead ends as "self-expression" and "narrative structure" will experience Rick London’s work like a glass of cold water in the face. Hard-core poetry fans will be delighted to come across this tender shock of undiluted lyricism.

The title, Picture With Moving Parts, says a lot about London’s agenda: He’s an imagist with a strong sense of the book-length series, making poems that interact from syllable to syllable, line to line and page to page, the whole becoming a piece of literary chamber music, a conceptual sonata for his solo voice.

You are caught up in
the apparitions that
appear in your head.
You call this
thinking. Years go by.
Your whole life. Once,
before you die, you’d
like to jump clear of
all this. But you
only think about
it. One thought leads
to another. Another
year. You feel your
time going by

Though the former Detroiter has lived in San Francisco for decades and is associated with the Language poets in the Bay Area, he has always maintained close ties, both poetical and political, with the Motor City. These local roots give him what might be called a philosophical purpose, as if writing was an act of compassion, a sharing of uniquely verbal understanding with a community of readers.

fragment – 2
any description of
home. places for color,
a random source of
light, bare things that
tempt you. the variable
shape obscures the
signs of struggle.
other hands reveal
yours. you forget the
one place you were

Doorjamb Press, which also publishes the poetry journal Dispatch Detroit, gives Picture an impeccable look, a trademark of editor-publisher Christine Monhollen’s approach. With a lovely cover photograph by Martha Waters and an airy layout (despite its small size), the collection feels like a pocket companion, a book to carry with you on the road back into the world.

what (the) body
lets you hear/   what
it keeps to

invitation to a vanishing point

nothing coincides with memory

the body feels its
way along a wall

moves in (the) small
breaks where a

door continues to
open the eye
sees what
it can

The American precursors to this work are pretty clear — William Carlos Williams, George Oppen, Robert Creeley — but London does honor to this experimental lineage. And all along, as he ponders the sounds of the words, we hear him unmistakably.

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George Tysh is Metro Times arts editor. E-mail him at [email protected].


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