The Crisis of Infinite Wards: an Open Letter to Dana Ward on the Occasion of the Second Printing of “The Crisis of Infinite Worlds”
In the last long poem of The Crisis of Infinite Worlds you describe the séance you organized with friends where each participant brought a personal votive to a viewing of Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, a movie selected for the harmonics and absurdity of its subtitle. Like Joseph Beuys you prod the American wolf with a cane from underneath felt. You write as if you invited us all over, the way you give yourself over to rhapsody with Joe Brainard reverence:
“I remember one night as a kid sitting in an over-lit Subway, nursing an enormous Dr. Pepper, being 14, in love with my solemn isolation & considering, lost in a trance of new thoughts, the fact, or the meaning of the hard yellow booth I was sunk in. . . .”
You stitch lyrics from Spicer’s radio into our songs and write into the crisis of insignificance many of us feel amid overabundance and multiplying provisional identities birthed by the internets. I read your poems and think isn’t it grand to have among us a poet of the ecstatic freakout traced to an ancestor known as “Homer” on an old flip phone set to Aeolian harp, a juggler of masks who voices madcap fool outsider jokes, opens the uncanny, wet finger to the wind, and plays the trickster. Yes, Dana, when I hear my phone but realize a moment later it’s merely wind chimes perhaps I won’t feel so foolish now you’ve given this phenomenon so elegant a name as “Zurich moonlight.”
I take your writing about your writing within your writing not as postmodern absorption but as the trope of a rap persona. I wanted to write a more traditional review but after reading your long narrative poems where sentences serve as lines and paragraphs as stanzas and the tone has the same warmth and energy of emails shared among friends about travels and adventures my response wouldn’t abide genre. And the gorgeousness of your lines: at first I’m struck by the unwieldy mellifluous flow of your post-language surrealism, though when analyzed your words make such perfect sense I find myself nodding along, especially when you speak of our songs, like “Over the Rainbow,” the theme song of your Infinite Worlds, on display even in the kaleidoscopic of its hallucinogenic cover.
“Over the Rainbow” is your song and our song even though it’s not likely to blare from the jukebox in the bar. It’s your song and our song insomuch as The Wizard of Oz and Kermit taught us to long for a world other than this one, a longing also in your earlier book and poem, This Can’t Be Life. The title is Jay Z but when juxtaposed with your glittering descriptions of models and celebrities it suggests a critical awareness of fashion bankrolled as beauty.
Your poems read like aids to memory and the rearrangement of mental furniture, as in “Typing ‘Wild Speech’” about Geoff’s suicide or in the sonnet sequence “My Diamond” where fascination with the beauty of a diamond becomes a way to understand addiction. Your poems about the birth of your daughter and the challenges of harried parenthood where one dreams of possessing the 10 hands of Kali happily occupy the domestic from a male perspective, a vantage some male poets elide but for hints at lost youth.
Dana, once after a reading we shared a smoke, then I saw you the next morning up the street at the cafe in the same rumbled seersucker with affable grin. “Hi, I’m Dana,” you said, obviously more invested in projecting a field of poetic energy in poetry time than personhood on a clock, but isn’t this why poetry matters, for the shiver as if cold but you are warm, so warm, fired up, zen, pure flow, alchemy, starry-eyed, a seer of déjà vu and epiphany, at home for a fleeting moment in the universe, and isn’t it grand?