When Michael McNamara approached Aji press with a draft of Loose Canon, our conversations on prosody deepened. His rare ear and deep intuition allow Mike to express the “objective correlative” in ways many with MFA’s from elite institutions will never achieve. He has unique gifts, and his faith in those gifts, his honesty, his generosity of spirit, and his exceptional intelligence are a boon to the world of poetry.
I advised Mike to cull Loose Canon and to consider more carefully the accessibility of some of his poems. Sometimes, he sacrifices sense for sound play. Sometimes, he gives in to cliché. But McNamara is not the first poet to shun the rigorous scrutiny of academy-trained poets. At worst, some of his poems may seem like rants (and he probably intended them to read that way). At best, his lyric poems are as good as any I’ve read today.
Maybe I was wrong to take my hatchet to Mike’s lines. In retrospect, I admit I was. He seems to find the inscape of his own poems, the energy, the length of line, just the right words in the right order, as well as anyone else. I’d argue he could cull and edit more carefully, as some words and lines don’t keep the tension or mood of some poems as well as others.
With a title like Loose Canon, McNamara trusts we’ll accept his unwillingness to explicate and analyze as so many of us have learned in our writing practices. He is bubbling over with experience, image, expression; he hopes to be taken seriously as a poet. He wants to be read. I recommend you give him a try and join the conversation: which of his poems ring true to you, and why? Can you recognize the logic of his syntax, his line breaks, the sound play of his poems? Which of his poems do you find most compelling, and why?
Mike, you don’t have to rent a tuxedo to get into the places where the serious writers offer their work for consideration. Kerouac didn’t. Whitman didn’t. Keep singing your songs in the darkness out on the edge of that ocean off the coast of Wales. Keep looking up at the stars. I will always consider myself fortunate to read anything you write.
Here are some of McNamara’s poems, and a link below to where you might purchase Loose Canon.
Old tree, old tree,
what can you tell me?
Have you relations in Montmartre
who shelter the broad and busy boulevards?
There is a some time
in everyone’s life,
maybe just for one moment,
a some time to look beautiful.
There is only ever really one thing
that is important. One thing.
It’s late. Restore me.
What is it?
There are many deaths on our way to dying,
while in our words we live.
Empty lines of famished words
to fill a hungry written world.
I come to you as a stranger
but you may refuse to hear me
because of the colour of my eye,
the woman at my side,
the coarseness of my tongue,
or what is current to deride.
I’ve made no secret
of the secrets I cannot share;
I stand before the mirror
and see no tabernacle there.
But, unlike you, perhaps,
I walk around the borderland
or sleep on the immigrant’s settee,
drink coffee with the ex-con
but still cry out to the poets of death, decadence
and beauty: Celan, Rimbaud, Whitman.
I pause on the towpath,
polishing shoes on the back of trouser legs
endeavouring not to thrive but to survive,
to look without tears upon things we cannot bear to see;
to bathe in the luminant light of St. Ives
and remember fields of children’s voices,
frisson, fires on the beach;
everything we have ever known or seen.
Dives where X marks the window,
some streaked white powder traces
where a fat man plays the bass;
members only. No meth heads at the boating club.
Positive discrimination: it’s the uncredited star
of all the soaps but there’s always a twist at the end.
So idealists will daub esoteric signs up on the wall,
join The Moonies, The Masons, The Rosicrucians,
while realists who win awards soak their liver in champagne
and losers with White Lightning.
Creators all. Artists. It’s your call - but remember;
in reality, Dear Editor, it is you, not I,
who is the stranger.
LAME GODS THAT HAUNT THE HALFLIGHT
Lame gods that haunt the halflight,
the king's thorn, the winter's cross,
no breath shrouds the moonlight
the letters cast in stone.
Oh, there's a place beyond the needing
where the colours run as one.
Lost gods stir in the twilight,
seven rays, the rosy cross,
sleep counted by dark midnights
in cold beds long alone.
Oh, there's a place beyond believing
where the colours run as one.
The voiceless dead come to greet us
in softened shoes that fold like kidskin,
faces sculpted by time’s microbic caresses
to a blind and mirthless grin.
‘Ah’ they don’t say; ‘Oh’ they don’t cry,
deaf and blind to hear or see those things
like the summer’s swallow wings
that flock and flutter through a cloudless sky.
For these the crafted poem holds no sense
and the promises of lovers of no consequence.
Gone the desire for acquisition,
gone the option to forgive;
so live for this moment you who can:
Note: “Short Shrift” was originally published in International Times.
“Lame Gods That Haunt the Halflight” was originally published in The Dawntreader.
Click to Purchase through Book Depository