Updating the pages on this blog. That’s meant writing a new account of Dumuzi, which comes out next spring.
Dumuzi, my second book of poems, will be published in 2020 by Gaspereau Press.
It began two decades ago on Gabriola Island, BC, in a summer cottage I had rented for cheap in the off-season to finish my first book. I woke one rainy morning from a dream in which I was a child standing in the wings of a great stage. Onstage was a market and the market was the world. My parents held my hands at the entry – one on each side. Then they were gone. Everywhere I went in the rush of it, the stalls receding to the horizon, throngs of people, clouds blowing by overhead, I could feel them with me, holding it up, making sure it went on.
Twenty years! And more titles, forms, angles of approach than I can remember. It sprawled, got visual, spun off other projects, danced tarantella to a verbal-visual polyrhythmic syncopation. It busted every damn frame I gave it.
Now it’s real simple, 40 spare lyrics enacting my struggle to have faith in being.
A son of my
first mind, was
at leaf, wind on
raw skin, fist
of one thirst
round of what
no one had
of what no
That’s the first, and the title poem comes next
Let no state be
enemy. Wet, dry, agon.
Work an inmost first
Wind blows light about
the life (hemlocks) from
which art is not apart
nor of a part. What a
rock thought to do
was rain and it
out of th
Dumuzi – a Sumerian god of the vegetation, fertility, ongoing spring. The poems invoke his deathless earth energy for aid. There’s very little about Dumuzi in the poems, so I give this by way of a note at the back
Out of Sumer, Dumuzi, fertility god, crushed king. His other’s Inanna, she of increase, who’s been down in their underworld for fun and profit; why for real’s a hard story to tell. On her way up & out, guided by hyperathletic postal demons, she’s told one’s got to take her place, divine rule of bloodless metamorphosis sez flies, and who’s her eye land on but her arrogant lovely benighted D. Take this one says and game afoot. Flees. Caught. Ta’en in chains. His butter churn’s broke & that empty windy sheepfold. Sumerian cuneiform same glyph for sheepfold & vulva; both have place in the formless field of his shining care. Little later they find his body in a roadside cessfield outside the city. Lover Inanna mourns. Mother Sirtur she mourns him oh she do. Their story’s very not yet over.
A more conventional accounting of their story here.
Making Dumuzi, I started making visual poems on the photocopier. This one spoke to Dumuzi’s trip to hell, in the clasp of annoying little demons called galla
I know it’s crude, but I’m fond of it as an early effort.
For a long time, I was trying to work in the story of Dumuzi and Inanna in handwritten fragments. One form they took is these aasemic panels (what’s that? read here)
A bunch of these were published in Asymptote but they got dropped from the book.
It wasn’t easy to strip the book down. I wanted mess multiplicity & sprawl – a whole as unrehearsed as a vacant lot gone to weeds in an ugly corner of New Jersey, yet shapely also, each note in its suited place, like a late Baroque symphony.
It’s what comes of taking Spring and All as your, not model, your own insight.
Several times, thought I had it. No press agreed; the book was not getting picked up. So, I surrendered my intention for it, scaled it back. And I like it in this new form – as a lance not a labyrinth – though I mourn the book that could have been.
The image up top, a Sumerian cylinder seal impression, depicting Dumuzi imprisoned in the underworld, the Kur. He’s surrounded by galla, demons of that place.