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Delusion's Games by Wayne Amtzis
BOOK: Morning Raga for Sun Ra by Wesley Ames. New York: Copper Mountain Press, 1998 (Neither this book nor this author exists. This review is a work of the imagination, a work in progress-one of delusion's games).

In Morning Raga for Sun Ra Wesley Ames goes for the ephemeral jugular. No longer do the exigencies and epiphanies of daily life dominate his gaze; it's the thief in the house-language itself-that's caught his attention. Staking language's survival on its postmodern demise, the book opens with Ames' paean to the intergalactic musings of the musician Sun Ra. Erratic, incoherent, chaotic, this river of disjointed phrases jangling among themselves offers moments of brilliance and eddies of obfuscation.

With an onrush of words and phrases, with broken syntax, punning assonance, misspellings that trigger asides, the poem offers language but withholds meaning. Sensing that the sounding presence of voice will not override incapacities of language, and that stunned incoherence may not bring the reader into the poem, as a reader himself, Ames pauses:

"these mistakes take time and in the mean time we are here"

Then, through repetition and variation, the poem winds back upon itself, forcing the harshness of juxtaposed and unfinished phrasing to sieve through to lines that work, that finally make sense.

"we are two strands --not tangled not knotted woven of one weaving

the light we give

           purified given again
                  purifies"

Am/Pm, a series of journal entries written by Ames in the hours before dawn follows upon this re-evaluation and revelation. Experiences of the immediate day linked to events and persons in the past and dreams the poet has just woken from alternate. The recollections quickly move down the page, while the dreams meander. Soon the prose like lines dominate, and an indistinguishable sense of wonder and futility suffuses Ames' world. With his waking voice Ames intrudes. The lived and dreamed reality ("waking dream daydream dream itself") in so far as we speak of them are all marked by delusion.

"winds that carry it lips and tongue that mark it all say "delusion"

undeluded would I speak in this manner? would you bend to hear me?"

Carried away by this rhetoric Ames hangs the axiom
"language=delusion" over the final portal of the book.

The linked poems in Box 37: phrases (in response) are from personal correspondence. Here we are not privy to these letters, but are shown Ames' words spoken anew. Though it is hard not to be seduced by the chosen phrases, the reader drawn back to the work, wondering who is being spoken to, is not yet willing to take on the guises of the unidentified respondents.

The poet's game is to leave us mid-sentence-"our phrases our words/ always in response/ one half the correspondence/ always to be filled in." In these dialogues with absent others, however, Ames falls into his own trap. The respondent's voice is absent and the reader will not be baited. The need to be heard and to hear another speak doubles back upon itself:

"..to be with you to be you I will hear I will listen tell me your name tell me mine tell me what to say

when you tell me what to say tell me what to say tell me tell me you are here you are there

tell me." If this is a cry in the wilderness, Ames would do well to reread his Godot-no one is there.

In his twelfth book Wesley Ames asks more of the reader than he has previously; yet he senses this. In the title poem, unstoppable force is abandoned for light that plays across the current. In Am/Pm the structure of dream indemnifies Ames' world; futility is borne with wonder. It is only in Box 37: phrases (in response) that Ames cannot account for his demands. The jaded reader thirsts for details and will not allow, as the poet would, imagination, no matter how lyrical, to compensate. To console.

(W. Amtzis teaches meditation at the Himalayan Buddhist Meditation Center.)


The Nepal Digest Friday Dec 18, 1998: Poush 1 2055BS: Year7 Volume81 Issue2 http://library.wustl.edu/~listmgr/tnd/0293.html

Copyright @ 2001, 2002, 2004 by Wayne Amtzis. All Rights Reserved.