Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"Clocks Stopped at a Strange and Savage Hour" reviewed by David Blaine

Clocks Stopped at a Strange and Savage Hour, Fulton Street and Other Stories
Brian Spaeth, 2008 seriousinkpress.com

Reviewed by David Blaine for Artists I Love

When Thomas Paine wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls,” he probably knew he was penning a classic, because all times try the souls of man and womankind. Each generation discovers anew the stress of aspirations always out of grasp, failure to achieve the expectations of some authority figure, or unrequited love. It’s how they respond to their life’s trauma that sets each person apart. Maybe they follow Hemmingway’s example when he celebrated Independence Day a bit early with a shotgun lobotomy.  Maybe they get into their car and follow Willy Loman’s shortcut to the American dream. Some people respond to their stress through personal growth, the “What doesn‘t kill you makes you stronger,” theory.  Others may survive through coping mechanisms of their own design, self-medication, Eastern religions, ascetic or hedonistic lifestyles.

Brian Spaeth seems to have found his salvation through the pen, an outlet for the pressures that build up when you live your life in the Big Apple’s equivalent of a sharecropper’s tarpaper shack.

A painter, musician and composer, writing came later in Spaeth’s life, after a succession of failures,
disappointments and assorted heavy blows.  His book of poetry, Clocks Stopped At A Strange And Savage Hour, is an artistic endeavor beyond the norm.

Most readers were taught that prose is composed of sentences and paragraphs, and poetry is composed of lines.  True enough, especially if your concept of American poetry springs from memories of Frost or Dickinson. But what about poetry composed entirely of images, photographs or paintings? What about the possibility of poetry composed of prose?  It all springs from the arrangement, much as a visual artist arranges found elements into a collage to make a unique image from several others.

Spaeth’s prose is poetic in places, using the usual devices of imagery, figurative language and quite often, repetition.  But it is the arrangement of the stories in his collection that achieve the overarching effect of the poem.  It is a privileged invitation to peer into the mind of someone who was pushed, or dragged, to the edge, but returned to tell about it.

If you enjoy something that requires a bit of exercise to get your head around, I’d definitely recommend this collection. Spaeth’s book is an original, and, perhaps, a future classic.

~ David Blaine, 2009

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