Saturday, January 11, 2014



New Orleans Variations & Paris Ouroboros by Paul Pines
(Dos Madres, Loveland, OH, 2013)

"Roland insists history
doesn't live in people but

in stones."
--from "Light Changes"

With his latest, Paul Pines reveals himself to be at the peak of his poetic powers.  Except that, ever since I started reading him a few of his books ago, I also noticed that he gets better and better.  So, may he keep peaking!

Two general things I want to say about Pines' New Orleans Variations and Paris Ouroboros.  First, the movements across and between a multiplicity of references is just fabulous jazz.  Second, the collection is a wonderful manifestation of something he quotes by Homer: "We leave home to find ourselves."

The poet left home to travel to two cities the subject of this book: New Orleans and Paris.  Many of these poems charm, and I want to focus on the charming -- and witty, wise, moving (Section 3 from "Silences" is a treasure), aware -- poems.  That could be all of them.  So let me share a sample from the New Orleans section, Section 3 from “Hello From Nola”:


a party awash in rice and beans
Popeye’s fried chicken
and biscuits
chorizos and King Cake
with the baby
still in it

served by Sor Juana
still in her escudo
I enter in jeans and a t-shirt
no longer recognizable
to those who sit
around a larger table
until my hostess
introduces me
as the man who was Jesus
at which there are random
nods of recognition

I’m asked
from time to time
to perform an intervention
as when the dog
leaps up to a low lying
bowl and devours
the sausage
or a reveler
spills her rum and coke
on the sofa but nothing
approaching a miracle
though I tell them
I can turn wine
into urine

a Mad Hatter
challenges me
to make it through the airport
dressed as our Savior

says it would be a spectacle
to watch them scan my robes
divest me of my hair and beard
conduct a cavity search
a veritable security

a new wrinkle
on the Grand Inquisitor
I appear before a southern judge
who finds me guilty of
inciting to riot
disrupting the status quo
a warning to Terrorists
a Republican trope

            one can’t be
            too careful when
            the Prince of Peace
            might be just another

who just last week
danced without incident
in the second line
all the way to
Canal St.

 "[T]urn urine into wine" -- that's just deft, Dude.  And a killer ending…

And here's a sample poem from the Paris section


At fourteen her blue eyes
hedged by dark lashes

Mathilde prepares three plates
of pate and goat cheese

served with white beans
bread and wine then confides

that her English teacher
encourages students to learn

Chinese German Russian
any other tongue but English

Her father Roland points out
the French threw Tom Paine

in the Bastille for objecting
to the wholesale execution

of aristocrats but mark the spot
with a silver plaque where

Hemingway drank himself silly
At La Closerie de Lilas

Americans in paris are always
lost (he says) but no worse

than Germans or Spaniards
Once a group from Munich

asked him where he’d learned
to speak their tongue so well

to which Roland replied

I can’t resist the appeal of these poems; here’s another astounding Paris poem (that hearkens, too, my theme in my engagement with Leonard Gontarek’s two books in this issue):


can only be grasped if we understand
the meaning of chaos as

                                    a gap

between objects
or conditions

                        the space

                           Hermes’ wind
                           nourished in the belly
                           of the earth

                                    where God
                                    becomes conscious
                                    of Himself

Last but not least, this collection is hugely entertaining—and I don't say that about most poetry books!  Do give yourself a treat and read these poems!


Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects because she's its editor. But she is also pleased to point you elsewhere to recent reviews of her books.  Her 2013 book, THE AWAKENING was reviewed by Aileen Ibardaloza at OurOwnVoice; and her 2004 book MENAGE A TROIS IN THE 21ST CENTURY, was reviewed (along with Joi Barrios' poetry) through the essay "The Self Revolution of Radical Love--Externalizing Internal Worlds of Freedon in Filipina Poetry" by Michaela Spangenburg at OurOwnVoice.  Eileen invites you to her new blog, EILEEN VERBS BOOKS; poets are invited to participate in three of its features: "Poetry and Money," "What Are You Reading?" and "What Do You Re-Read?"

No comments:

Post a Comment