Sunday, June 26, 2016

TASTE I SAY, YOU’RE TIMELESS

Yesterday’s mail yielded a book of poetry by Chuck Taylor, a Texas-based writer who has operated Slough Press 43 years. Taylor’s latest, Taste I Say, You’re Timeless, contains characters whose names he says “come off a matchbox, like ‘Strike Anywhere.’”  The poems reflect an artistic sensibility that values personal freedom and explores alternative ways of living. They're reminiscent of “beatniks,” those cultural radicals who typified a vibrant counter culture during the 1950’s and 60’s in this country.

Taylor describes his book as a collection of “Prose Poem Anti-Poems,” and I enjoyed his relaxed style that Michel Delville refers to as “a downright illegitimate mode of literary expression.” His opening poem entitled “Where” asks the questions: “Where will the sentence take us?” followed by “Does this sentence start out from an unknown shore…can it row against the currents in search of undiscovered atolls…would the fear of being lost at sea keep us from going…? His metaphysical questions are even stronger: “How often in a day must we be happy to have a happy day? 4.6 hours? Must we bathe in the sweet tea of happy-like sunlight, or can you work in a dim corner by a subway shining shoes day after day so to be in rumbling noise of happiness…?

The poet provides his own answers in a series of prose poems “comical and a bit cynical,” Taylor writes in a letter accompanying the gift book he sent to me. I particularly liked the character “Strike Anywhere” featured in the poem “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof,” whose lonely feet are referred to as “apples in the dust wisely well traveled. I need to learn to bend and fold up in many pockets. Go with the luck of the soul’s water and the solid moment.” “Strike Anywhere” is the perfect personification of Walt Whitman or the wandering vagabonds of beatnik fame – Kerouac, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, Snyder, to name a few.

The strange names in Taste I Say will cause readers to imagine all types of cultural radicals: “Strike Anywhere,” “This Side Up,” “Tobacco Free,” and “And Other” (a tall, carrot-topped Buddhist). Taylor underlines his explorations into alternative ways of living with characters who’re definitely not mainstream but who say it all and who, having “said it and said it, it all lies in the grass waiting for rain.” He takes these contemporary characters on delightful misadventures in existential landscapes until they find the ideal shore to push off from.

Consider this piece of alternative literature entitled “Manage” expressed by a non-materialist: “Down in the bargain basement so long, ‘Keep Away From Children’ [another invention of a comic name] did not know the air was musty, did not know the absence of wind or sunlight, down in the bargain basement for the testimony of the tribe of clearance – woeful shoes, party blouses already lonesome for dance, murderous belts and bolts of cloth so sad you can almost hear the tearing. Down in the bargain basement, hands behind her back, throat clearing, feet in tired heels, doing her dim shining duty.”

Enlightenment comes after two or three readings of the poems, and they’re worth the effort. Taylor’s clever combinations of words remind me of the poets Charles Simic and Charles Bukowski intermixed and chanting ardent “beat” poetry. Comic yet wise messages are passed on from an expert in the fields of Beat Literature and Creative Writing. Taylor has taught at Texas A&M, UT at Tyler, El Paso, and Austin, and Angelo State University and has won the Austin Book Award and Utah Fine Arts Poetry Contest. He also did extensive work in Poets in the Schools Programs.

Taylor does magic tricks for children’s parties, “studies socially-sanctioned investments, took care of his invalid mother, and now spends too much time on Facebook.” His letters are written on the reverse, blank side of college course hand-outs and are as amusing as his prose poem anti-poems.

These prose poems aren’t just cynical excoriations; they contain philosophical and metaphysical nuggets — noteworthy, timeless sentences...in the author's words, "new machines from the river of words…”


Taste I Say, You’re Timeless: Prose Poem Anti-Poems was published through Weasel Press in Manvel, Texas.




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