Thursday, January 12, 2012

Joseph Donahue: Dissolves

Dissolves: Terra Lucida IV - VIII, Joseph Donahue (Talisman House, 2012)

"Dissolves" is of course a verb, what the Alka-Seltzer does in the glass of water, releasing its dancing effervescence; but, as we might be reminded by director Stanley Kubrick's brief walk-on in Joseph Donahue's latest book, it's also a noun: a kind of cinematic transition – from image to image, scene to scene, perspective to perspective. One's grounds are continually dissolving & reforming in this latest installment of Donahue's serial poem Terra Lucida (serial: think Duncan's Passages, Mackey's Song of the Andoumboulou, Finkelstein's Track); we find our surroundings & perspectives anew from poem to poem, from one section of a poem to the next.

What is constant, as we move among the gnostic glitterings of the poem – for it is gnosis, in the end, that renders Donahue's world lucid – moving between religious vocabularies, treasure-houses of scripture & ritual – Islamic, Jewish, Roman Catholic – moving from waking lucidity to keenly-etched dreamspace (there are number of dream-poems here, aislings as it were) – what is constant is Donahue's 2-line form, a kind of ground-bass of plangent music, here evoking Mackey, there evoking Taggart, always paying homage to H.D.

The sheer material here is hard for me to take: among other things, the death of a mother (still) touches me too close for commentary. But the magnificent image that follows the moment of that death, the drowned cathedral drawn from Debussy's C├íthedral engloutie, is nothing short of mesmerizing, haunting, especially in its climax, when the waters rise to the level of the ciborium and the Host itself is – yes – dissolved. It is dissolved, a post-gnostic might say, into countless shards & atoms of bright divinity, embedded in each of us – making the world in which we live, move, & read, one terra lucida.


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