Days Poem, Vols. I and II, by Allen Bramhall
(Meritage Press, St. Helena & San Francisco, 2007)
Allen Bramhall's deserted plane, his recession from simulacra in Days Poem
Allen Bramhall's Days Poem, almost one thousand pages, is a Gargantuan work, and any attempt to enclose its pataphysical complexity in the narrow confines of a review will be by itself a Pantagruelian effort. As with Eileen Tabios' I Take Thee, English, for My Beloved, Days Poem exceeds possible definitions besides, in Bramhall's case, the limited one granted by a time span (there is an ending date: 'thursday, august 16, 2001, ahb') and the visual consideration that what we are reading is prose poetry, prose, an interrupted and disrupted but somehow connected writing collected into fragmented paragraphs -- one followed by the other. After about a hundred pages, the quiet voice of the Author enters, after several days of reading, this voice accompanies the reader as a presence to a distinct observation of what surrounds us. Like a quiet melody, a tune that becomes familiar with its close humming in the proximity of Walden Pond with Thoreau and Emerson, with a hobo and a bear, a dog -- the only one who knows where he is. The collapsing imprint existentialism gave to our way of thinking, radically executed by postmodernism, finds in Bramhall the underlying layer that supports our contemporary living structure.
We are not dealing with automatic writing, streams of consciousness, confessionalism, a protracted diary, political observations, poetic distillations, metaphysical considerations, philosophical statements, romantic flights, hopes, disappointments, despair, and yet we deal with all of them at the same time. As Tom Beckett writes on his blog, Soluble Census: "Bramhall is working a peculiar discursive space: it is in the present, it is in the past, it is fanciful and philosophical -- often in the space of a single paragraph. A gentle surrealistic attitude floods the tone of these tomes' tune."
His voice settles on an appeasing mode. "Being in the moment" brightens what is by our physical entities. At the same time Bramhall dismantles the Babylonian chaos, the outside structures that asphyxiate individuals. Often his patient deconstruction appeals to common sense, verges on rarefied connections with the musicality of earth, of the air, with the immanence of our stay. It is in this moment that poetry becomes work, like the dreams of children that try to stop our ready-made postures -- even if soon forcefully and inexorably swept away, in the same way a concept tries to become a signifying strength, poetry struggles with words to float to surface, to the attention of lives that keep on postponing their possibility of being lived without realizing it.
Poetry becomes the leading often unmentioned thread of this Gargantuan work. By poetry the Author means a way of living, hence the title, a never ending poem of days. It often refers to a longing for essential values as coined by the hippies in their wish of reaching the state of "beatus", a way of interacting freely one with the other after having torn down useless superstructures, constricting and obliging one-way streets, anguishing and at the same time unreachable targets. His humor -- in the breathless and endless flow mastered by his controlled insights -- has to be mentioned: "tell us of your mystery, Tarzan, the querulous person of civilization asked. mordant necessity. Tarzan love Jane, love Boy. Tarzan sit on rock, watch rhino, the querulous person peers closer. and do you exercise everyday? Tarzan scratches his balls. simplicity is easy to make. the jungle is just about natural. but wait! there's more…"[Volume 1, p. 418]
A certain Rabelaisian mode is to be found by Bramhall, as a matter of fact his outlook reaches the most im/probably visible as well as recondite characters and situations, from the President to the Rangers, to Pound to Robert Bly, to SUV's, from the cosmologic to the microscopic. "brackets enclose supposed necessities, like trees around a clearing. yes, rocks are periods, and periods take time. where the time goes is a question, left behind often. rocks are treated to periods of understanding. moon rocks. within brackets another voice can speak. within brackets a piece of information. one has to expect something. eventually rocks will be less strange. at the end of a period, perhaps."[Volume 1, p. 355]
The reader can delight in Rousseaunian-like stases dictated à rebours[ ] by an objective Marxist filtering of the average ideology perceived as fake fairy tales in a land of fun for all.
"[…] the people have spoken, and having done so, they wish to say more. when more is ready, there will be enough time to reverse decisions, go into hiding, direct the education of the public spirit, and so on, until the ripe moment, quiet as trees, today, wind made those same trees noisy, to the degree that we can understand the essence. lately we have become divided, and started looking at books.
poetry distinguishes the plain from a blind field of force. it doesn't seem obvious but stars. a word breaks into sound, sound into time. the dog is a place, and plans will be made. organized and sailing, anything find, vocabulary. people charge in, falling volcano or just a lame geyser. Inside the latest entropy, the Power Rangers® wait to save the world. the world is a word, generous to our voices. "[Volume 1, p. 368]
Characterized as it is by unstoppable changes, an homogenous quality binds what can be called a work-in-progress, even if Allen Bramhall directs us to different parameters on Antic View, a blog he keeps with poet Jeff Harrison: "I'm thinking of my own work, which I pretty well forget once I've written. For me, a poem (that I've written) is the remnant of an experience. Perhaps it is an imitation of an experience."
A continuation, in terms of a more progressive forging of ideas into a balanced consistency, seems to take place with the turning of pages. What at the beginning were statements ascribable to sensations acquire in Volume 2 the depth of more refined and attentively crafted horti conclusi, the picturing of separate and well-defined worlds, at least for the reader who tries to delineate visible milestones in order to find anchoring points. Otherwise, as previously remarked, his voice carries the reader along, astray, and back to project him again elsewhere. The reader is with the book and with the Author who leads him through an eclectic variety of modulations along various phases of the day, of the year, of objects, sites, points of view, lights and shades, times, and situations.
Allen Bramhall avoids all capital letters. His are usually short sentences that wave and wiggle to unexpected spots. Flashes of poetry meet the reader, as much as random or casual observations, political and social criticism, disappointments, despair, bucolic descriptions, romantic flights. Bramhall's Gargantuan work resides in the depiction of sequences of thoughts which are disconnected from any fixed and/or comfortably recognizable development. Onto the screen the Author brings what crosses his mind in the moment in which he is typing, or what does not want to cross his mind in that moment. Christo's wrapping and mapping could be the antithesis of Bramhall's wording while they meet at the extreme. Their art is there, visible to all to trigger one first question: "Why, what is it?"
[1: Christo and Jean-Claude, their online site: http://www.christojeanneclaude.net/]
Anny Ballardini lives in Bolzano, Italy. She grew up in New York, lived in New Orleans, Buenos Aires, Florence. A poet, translator and interpreter, she teaches high school; edits Poet’s Corner, an online poetry site; and writes a blog: Narcissus Works. She has translated several contemporary poets into Italian and English. Her book of poems, Opening and Closing Numbers, was published by Moria Press in 2005.