Dumuzi, my second book of poems, has just been published by Gaspereau Press.
It began in the last millennium when I woke from a dream. I was in the wings of a stage. My parents held my hands, one on each side. Onstage was a market I walked out into: it was all colour, sound & form, the great world. My parents were gone, and running down alleys, overleaping puddles, hesitantly approaching inscrutable displays, I shone with joy, knowing the ruin around me & in me was held in a perfect form by their love. I woke & spent 20 years making images of that form.
Dumuzi is an assemblage of my failures. Twenty years! A longer trail of wreckage and rejects, cast-off forms & angles of approach, than I could ever remember. It sprawled, got vispo, spun off other projects, danced tarantella to a verbal-visual polyrhythmic syncopation. Busted every damn frame I gave it.
Now at an end, it’s simple, 50 or so 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 not a lot 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, Inanna, she of increase, went down to their underworld for fun and profit; why for real though’s a hard story to tell. On her way up & out, guided by hyperathletic postal demons called galla, and told one’s got to take her place, divine rule of bloodless metamorphosis they sez, who’s her eye land on but her arrogant lovely benighted D. Take this one sez & game afoot. Flees. Caught. Ta’en in chains. His butter churn’s broke & an empty windy sheepfold. Sumerian cuneiform’s the same glyph for sheepfold & vulva; both have place in the formless field of his shining care. Later the women find his body unmoving outside citygates. Geshtinanna, his sister & my book’s hero, sez I will take his place, ½ a year underearth, & so she does.
A further account of their intersecting cycles here.
The image did not stay gone. As I was to start proofreading, a new idea for making pictures came, and my editor at Gaspereau, Andrew Steeves, graciously indulged it.
Dumuzi and Geshtinanna in the underworld, with clay to eat & dust to drink, wearing dead wings, watching the dust thicken
Geshtinanna, above ground, asking Dumuzi not to tell her his prophetic dream
Inanna’s decree is, she’s to take his place underearth part of the year: a cosmological timeshare. Every god makes their own way of moving on
The images began from a scrap of security envelope lining
I made the pattern into a base sheet the dimensions of our printed page
and then inked in the pictures I found there. Those 2 in the underworld
The process is a sort of digital relief printing, where I colour (ink) the raised (black) portions of the block (base sheet) selectively. It’s fastidious improvisation: quick fast strokes as the image calls to my eyes; and then fussy hours adding & subtracting pixels, to draw the forms out.
And, a few vis poems that got let go. This one spoke to Dumuzi’s trip to hell, in the clasp of those maddening ravening demons, the galla
Crude but it has place in my heart as a first effort.
In that time, I wanted to get the story of Dumuzi and Inanna across 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.
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 way back – and then, like a Dionysian vine pruned down to earth, it sprang out again; as said.
Most of these posts speak of earlier drafts, in their innocence.