Games by Wayne Amtzis
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).
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
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:
mistakes take time and in the mean time we are here"
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
are two strands --not tangled not knotted woven of one weaving
light we give
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.
that carry it lips and tongue that mark it all say "delusion"
would I speak in this manner? would you bend to hear me?"
away by this rhetoric Ames hangs the axiom
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.
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
you tell me what to say tell me what to say tell me tell me
you are here you are there
me." If this is a cry in the wilderness, Ames would do
well to reread his Godot-no one is there.
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.
(W. Amtzis teaches meditation at the Himalayan Buddhist Meditation
The Nepal Digest Friday Dec 18, 1998: Poush 1 2055BS:
Year7 Volume81 Issue2 http://library.wustl.edu/~listmgr/tnd/0293.html