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Tantivy [PDF / EPUB] Tantivy Through close attention to nature's myriad syntheses and separations Donald Revell's sage lyric meditations seek and find proof of the otherworldly These poems are ripe with the ecstatic vision we com Through close attention to nature's myriad syntheses and separations Donald Revell's sage lyric meditations seek and find proof of the otherworldly These poems are ripe with the ecstatic vision we come to expect from Revell's workVictorians There is snow and there is snowA young woman daughter of the eminent physicianDisrobes at her window and starvationLike a pack of dogs with jeweled mouthsPauses a moment howls and the young womanRecites a poem to herself So long ago the words are lostEven as each remains a part of usChristmas meaning snow out of a broiling sunHumanity meaning numbersChildhood meaning children and railings and kissesNever kissed but carved into real trees Motherless goddamn modernity never grewHere we are again at ChristmasOn fire escapes without a fire in viewPoet translator and critic Donald Revell has authored ten previous collections of poetry Winner of the NEA Translation Award the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and two time winner of the PEN Center USA Award in Poetry Revell has received fellowships from the NEA Ingram Merrill and Guggenheim memorial foundations He is poetry editor of Colorado Review.


3 thoughts on “Tantivy

  1. says:

    Over the last 15 years as a professor at the Universities of Utah and Nevada Donald Revell has been writing poems that have evolved to match his surroundings It is a true trajectory for a poet whose own manifesto is titled The Art of Attention There is little of the ivory tower in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas and there the attentive eye finds new contours and distinctions Revell’s acclaimed earlier books of poems represented best by New Dark Ages and Erasures have seemed to wear away into essentials in the desert The long lines and uniform stanzas disappeared Poems obsessed with the last European century and its ancient betrayals and with the tropes of modernism Revell inherited from his native New York City—urban space the crowd chaos and class—faded away Imbued with an adaptive transcendental almost Cathar Christianity the poems in There Are Three Arcady and My Mojave turned instead to the individual and the individuating landscape of the West Revell found anew the mysteries of geology and climate aridity uplift desiccation the struggle of plants in the desert weather and the long suffering gardeners who grow them as well as the idylls and isolation of first Salt Lake City and then the Las Vegas suburbs Revell’s son Benjamin appears freuently in these poems in an idealized state of innocence that serves as the reliuary for Revell’s lost innocence His paeans to Jesus and God may stem from Thoreau but take on the desert struck solitude of Saint Jerome The conflux of transcendentalism Albigensian mysticism and pre Socratic thought in the brooding solitude of the Mojave created in the songs and meditations of Arcady and My Mojave a spare free from personal but not confessionary lyric that surpasses Revell’s early work both in music and idea The Bitter Withy starts very much like a continuation of the style and sensibilities of My Mojave and Arcady but with an unmistakable sorrow that is less present in his other desert books “Long legged Bird” the penultimate poem captures the long lined clip and measure of poems in Erasures and the earlier books and brings to us again Revell’s considerable anger and anxiety his bitterness though here it has nothing to do with the wars in Europe or the destruction of cities or peoples Instead his middle period is one of transcendence wisdom and religion We have a poem tuned to the sound of Revell’s mortality and the decline of his desert arcadia I want to explain—tremolos And suealings and then a high sound Sweeten the little halfway house Forever I mean it just goes on forever As through the little portals children pour Arcady has become a halfway house The decline ordains Revell’s own death with the transient and sacred essence that flits around and inside particulars but is apart from them perhaps above them It is a masterful poem one of Revell’s finest Tantivy carries this matured sorrowful new music even further In the previous decade Revell has translated Rimbaud Apollinaire and LaForge The French strain is strong here and so than ever in his work the poems in this book provide the rare sensation of true originality of a poet past caring who has not shed influence but has moved past caring about it They do not feel received but are new in the old way Tantivy is one of those books that perfectly fits the occasion of its being which is to say it may well be a classic “The Last Men” the first of four sections opens with a suite of poems titled “Victorians 1–11” which play with form and rhyme in a manner reminiscent of Revell’s early work but in a completely unstudied way There is nothing inherited in their formality They give you the sense of how it must have been to hear the first rondel sung in torchlight 800 years ago Motherless goddamn modernity never grew Here we are again at Christmas On fire escapes without a fire in view The French poets have long provided their American counterparts an alternative approach to rhyme suitable than that of the English Romantics Though Tantivy is indebted to Alfred Tennyson the play of rhyme in the book and the shaping of poems into resemblances of forms remind one less of that cardboard viceroy of old Britannia than of John Ashbery whose poems Revell’s early work sometimes resembles Revell’s poems have always been somber and that darkness is at its fullest in Tantivy Consider the following lines from the first poem to follow the “Victorians” suite titled “Homage to John Frederick Peto” All in green we went out rioting Lute music demasked the commercial radio And girls knew everything Any ornaments for the poor man’s store? Any moments of leisure at the fish house door? Time will come again to talk perfection A succession of creatures in midair I won’t be there Hardly Victorian rhyme serves less as deep architecture here than ornament like bells on a jongleur’s hat Tennyson serves as a kind of muse in Tantivy but as motif than as influence True there is a song uality to these poems rather than the terse and incised esthetic dear to the modernist strain Revell has long championed but in its most self conscious mock medieval stylings it is closer to Bertran de Born Revell is married to poet Claudia Keelan whose translations of the trobairitz the female troubadours is forthcoming from Omnidawn in 2015 under the title Truth of my Songs The Poems of the Trobairitz It seems that the music of 12th century Occitan poetry cross pollinated Tantivy The troubadours and trobairitz faced the uintessential poetic problem the inheritors of a vast rich but obsolete cannon they sought to make a new vernacular poetry that better matched the world at hand Revell is on a likeminded uest in Tantivy—to make it new when “Make It New” is now a century old Tantivy’s third section “Tithon” is one of the most experimental poems in Revell’s catalog Only a few times has he stepped so far from uniform surface textures and standardized syntactical patterns Revell’s great little poem “What Can Stop This” first published in New American Writing and later included in Arcady “The sympathy of friends is pleasant VIOLINSBut it makes no difference any TROMBONES” indicates future directions But “Tithon” is big filling the middle 10 pages of the book It is songlike and repetitive in passages but incorporates found materials a letter reprinted in its entirety; uotes from Cézanne and Char etc affixed to the poem with the logic of collage so that the poem does not feel like a whole smooth object but rather as a series of coincident but not necessarily subseuent parts While the lines and phrases are highly melodic their seuencing is discordant giving “Tithon” almost a simultaneous rather than linear composition Shadows of leaves Shadows of leaves Je suis le prince D’un pays aboli God counts only up to one His hands are small And in God’s hands even Mountains are sparrow sized Also the cloistered fountains Lord My dearest my estranged The fountains also Shadows of leaves Shadows of leavesThis friction between lyric and discord is one source of “Tithon’s” beauty as is an overarching tension in the poem’s mood For all of its optimistic intent and homilies about unity eternity and transcendence “Tithon” is ultimately about loss Here Revell follows most closely in Tennyson’s footsteps giving new light to the myth of Tithonus who begged for immortality and was cursed with the perpetual attenuation of life and whose anglicized name Tithon Tennyson first used in the 1833 version of his poem of the same name Revell’s “Tithon” like Tennyson’s is an elegy for lost time a dirge not for the dead but for the remembrancers Tennyson may be the poem’s kelson but its language closely resembles those other great elegies for the condemned Ezra Pound’s The Pisan Cantos and Dylan Thomas’ Fern Hill Like them it is fixated on the disordered contents of memory—the flashes and fragments of a broken paradise illuminated and made otherworldly by the dawning of death I lay my eyes upon the ground and see the ground I lay my eyes upon a cloud clouds are France and see the angel there I lay my eyes upon the slowly moving surface of the water In a narrow pool between dragonfly and cruel acacia And my eyes swim away from me finding my friends Alive with skins made of diamonds the poet Char and high sounds the poet Reverdy I lay my eyes upon the easternmost horizon just at dawn And my only son Benjamin walks out of my eyes Never to be seen by me In its closing “Tithon” assumes most closely the music of elegy which like all lyric poetry has the ego at its center Tennyson’s Tithonus is a stand in for the bereaved for whom abandoned by the dead the world has lost its savor Revell’s Tithonus is himself the long practitioner of attentiveness who mourns not his inability to die but the coming loss of the objects of his attention His anxiety about this separation rings like a crisis of faith through the whole of Tantivy and seems to challenge the foundations of the mysticism Revell has built in the desert Though deeply sad Revell’s work has never been fineThis review was first published in The Sugar House Review issue 9 FallWinter 2013 and on The Sugar House Review website


  2. says:

    Found this at the public library when Sara discovered a much larger area of new books than the smaller area facing towards the center of the floor I grabbed this and two other new books of poetry along with the graphic novels and CDs I was checking outI recognized Donald Revell’s name but could not place it Once I got home and did some poking I realized he had translated the edition of Rimbaud’s The Illuminations that I have He has done several other translations and has published 11 books of poetry and two books of criticism bio on back cover No doubt I have read other poems he translated and have come across the odd poem by him here and there but this is the first book of his that I have read I want to say that it sucks but what do I know? I do know that it isn’t for me The world is surreal enough that I see little need for surrealist poetry Perhaps I’ll grow into it or some of it at some point as I do like a little of the surrealistic in other art forms on occasion Earlier this year I read Surrealist Love Poems ed by Mary Ann Caws and I didn’t particularly care for it either See I did like a few poems in it though as love is in itself often surreal If you like surrealistic poetry or know already that you like Donald Revell’s work then check this out Otherwise you are on your own as to whether you read it


  3. says:

    i really liked the lyricism and simplicity of language


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