Wednesday, April 8, 2015

TWO MILES WEST

Gary Entsminger, editor and publisher of Pinyon Publishing in Montrose, Colorado, spends many hours every day encouraging, supporting, and publishing poets. Like Ezra Pound, he believes that "the more every man/woman knows about poetry the better." At some hour during his busy day as a publisher, naturalist, computer programmer, and musician, he manages to write. He has published two novels, two non-fiction books, and numerous scientific articles and poetry in literary journals; however, this month he celebrates the publication of Two Miles West, his first full-length book of poetry, and it is a work of signature brilliance, a dazzling piece de résistance.

The cover of this inspiring book features the artistry of Susan Elliott, Entsminger's publishing partner. Elliott photographed and enhanced the "pictographs in the Barrier Canyon Style of the characteristic ghostly anthropomorphs, some six or seven feet tall in the Thompson Wash in southeast Utah." The cover design sets the tone of wonder and awe inherent in the text of Two Miles West. Section drawings of women symbolize the muses or sages mentioned in Yeats' epigraph poem at the beginning of Two Miles West and emphasize the roles various women have played in Entsminger's life; e.g., grandmother, mother, aunt, lover.

Perhaps what Entsminger does best in this work is to present a way to understand ourselves and our potential within the context of time and this universe, melding imagination, insight, and wit in lyrics that celebrate surprising moments. In Two Miles West we find capricious explorations into philosophy, music, and nature. The inner "scape" of each poem has a distinctive voice (the evocation of the Muse) that keeps watch over emotional reactions as well as physical impressions of the world two miles west and beyond Entsminger's cabin on a plateau in southwestern Colorado.

While reading this volume that contains many metaphysical poems, I was reminded of Ken Wilber's A Theory of Everything in which he presents ideas that invite readers to integrate body, mind, and spirit. This reminder occurred in the poem, "Reading Rilke," in which Entsminger probes the question: "... why weren't/we comfortable/with paradise? /I make a note/as the cottonwood crackles/where are the angels? / we fare no better now/in our interpreted worlds/beneath the higher stars/still as terrified/yet if we beckon/will they reappear/as themselves/and will we recognize/our past echoes in their wings?" Entsminger's poetic questions seem to be designed to cast light upon the hidden and to introduce some measure of light through philosophical enquiry without being didactic.

Entsminger's naturalist inclinations appear in the poem "Pelicans," in which he observes the pouches of lady slippers growing in the mountains and likens them to "strangers in a strange land/..." agreeing to nod and make no sound, remaining lady's slippers until they fade in spring "when sunshine bends/and words leaf/then pelicans/leave the ground."

Entsminger moves us from level to level, from memory to reality in inspired leaps, from childhood characters to the invented a la Kerouac persona named McQ, and he accomplishes these leaps with images not unlike the pictograph photographs that extend the reader's boundaries, including and transcending along the way. "Music At Three" is a poignant recollection of Entsminger's grandmother who is captured in a "full-cut apron/hugging her wide hips/canvas shoes to ease/sore feet smell [ing] of/onions and fried potatoes/I ask for munie/and dance/snapping fingers/and thumbs where/the beat purses/her lips/as if to kiss/then pinches my cheek/but it never hurts a bit."

Brittle wit on the cusp of being idiosyncratic emerges in Entsminger's "Robbery," a poem about the human experience of lost opportunities that expresses the poet's regret from making wise choices (!): "...I was already up/making plans/to steal a million/we'd rush out/before breakfast/with our haul/mount a bay/and pinto/ride to Colorado/saddlebags slapping/against hair/and skin/until time/caught up with us/with the sheriff's posse our butts/in a sling/should've made love/chile rellenos & refried beans/I could'a been somebody." "Robbery" is a laugh-aloud moment for readers.

One of my favorite poems in Two Miles West is a short piece entitled "Feathers" about a nursery rhyme that "has escaped somewhere," a poem that draws the reader in with the delight Robert Frost spoke of as inclining to the impulse, assuming "direction with the first line laid down." In "Feathers," Entsminger "lays it down," imagining two girls and a boy leaving their houses to "run into the woods/live with crows/eat corn get/chased/learn to fly/in time the girls/become crow/maidens and the boy/ a night watch/man with feathers/where his arms used to be." From the initial image of "a nursery rhyme escaping somewhere" (I love that line!) to the end line of "a watch man with feathers/where his arms used to be," Entsminger unfolds a poem that was predestined to achieve the element of surprise, a characteristic of many of his poems.

 "Metamorphosis" establishes Entsminger's role as a prophet of hope and belief in the potential of men/women despite their preoccupation with "stuff," and their struggles as "wooly bears" "...one day to the next/climbing higher/to just below/somewhere else/soon to become tiger moths." This poem "comes right with a click like a closing box," as Yeats said in his Letters on Poetry.

Perhaps the tantamount vision in Entsminger's Two Miles West is that of the possibility of humans being elevated to joy in life while living in a complex, mechanized society. Readers are treated to his appreciation of women, his liberation from time and space limitations, his devotion to truth, and his love of a natural world that presents glad surprises for his poetizing. Thinker, storyteller, a poet who poses questions about the visible and audible world, as well as the spiritual realm, Entsminger emerges as a contemporary version of a renaissance man in this debut volume of poetry.


Available from Pinyon Publishing, 23847 V66 Trail, Montrose, Colorado 81403.
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