Monday, August 5, 2013

MAGICAL, FANTASTICAL, ALPHABETICAL SOUP

I have on my desk this morning the latest publication of Pinyon Publishing in Montrose, Colorado: Magical, Fantastical, Alphabetical Soup, Mini Fictions, Prose Poems, & Rants by Chuck Taylor. The author of this volume invites readers not to be “weighted down by too many predetermined notions of what narrative should be,” and I felt free enough this morning to pursue the book straight through from A to Z. As I turned the pages, I was reminded of Montaigne who described his unique daydream-like writing: “I cannot keep my subject still...it goes along…staggering with a natural drunkenness…” Montaigne’s rumination aptly describes the natural flow of Taylor’s writing.
That last statement isn’t a negative assessment of his work. I think he has the kind of genuine vision attributed to the poet Charles Simic, moving us through surrealism and a sometimes dark view of human problems: hunger, poverty, violence, while managing to transform the everyday world into a place of mystery, “everything teetering on the edge of everything/With a polite smile...” as Simic says.
Taylor begins his alphabetical soup with a prose poem entitled “Artist of Shadows,” propelling us into the inner sanctum of a writer with a description that is familiar to many writers who take their insomnia to the computer and begin to compose: “the lamp lit, the fan running – white noise to block exterior sounds – the blinds shut tight; artist of the shadows of heart, the strange beatings inside, the mind waking with extraordinary thoughts, worries best kept to oneself, the others in the house sleeping…a tough old ox alone, artist of the shadows, his books on the wall…his laptop’s blue glow, tap, tap, words on the screen out in the night onto the Web for other artists of shadows who seek what they do not know…”
By the time I reached the letter “C,” I was smiling, as Taylor cruises along in his cool Chrysler convertible and crushes a chicken in his path, lamenting that he’s always quoting Albert Schweitzer concerning reverence for life. He pulls off the road to examine his car for remnants of the bird, only to discover moths and butterfly bits of wings, then sets these remains on a pyre of twigs and lights it. As he imagines himself an Indian, he sings mourning songs in the dark and “dreams respect for the living and the dead.” Profundity and wit combine in two pages of a prose poem that will delight those who like to hear the sound of a sardonic voice within wise revelations.
In one of the most humorous mini essays in Magical,Fantastical, Alphabetical Soup, Taylor exhorts everyone, at least once in their lives, to wear a dress, citing the example of Sinclair Lewis who once put on an evening gown to impress flappers. He defines the dress as being the opposite of armor, touting that it displays vulnerability and trust and that the world doesn’t deserve women wearing dresses. “The world contains way too much dope, rape, destruction, and war,” he writes. “But women don’t think about it. They persevere, they continue to love, leaving themselves open for what begins life and what bears life, when they step out into the light wearing, like petals of a sunflower opening, a dangerous dress.” This prose is a “wow” piece of symbolism and wisdom.
Taylor’s prose poem entitled “Nature” reveals his perception that a relationship with nature is a necessary part of the awakening of consciousness and a surrender to stillness, “…the astonishment, the reality you hold in the moment, that you are not mortal.” The beautiful photograph on the cover of Magical, Fantastical, Alphabetical Soup taken by Taylor and designed by Susan Elliott reflects his perceptions about the natural world.
Youth, love, war, nature, Taylor covers both the surreal and ordinary, the social and political landscapes of American life, probing spiritual and moral concerns with irony, poetic skill, and philosophical insight . This book is indeed a magical, fantastical read, and Gary Entsminger at Pinyon has done it again by providing us with the work of a unique writer. Taylor’s prose poems and mini stories contain startling imagery and metaphors in a style reminiscent of those beat writers who freed themselves from the traditional canon of literature. He moves us from the staleness of form that permeates a civilization preoccupied with form into the light of the present moment wearing Simic’s “polite smile.”
Chuck Taylor has been a balloon clown, a soft water salesman, janitor, laundry worker, children’s magician, nursery school teacher, bookseller, and publisher. He operates an independent literary press, Slough, and teaches creative writing, Beat Literature, and American Nature Writing at Texas A&M. His book of poems, What Do You Want, Blood? was awarded the Austin Book Award.

Order from Pinyon Publishing, 23847 V66 Trail, Montrose, CO 81403.
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