Poetry. In the foundational Western origin myth, the first order of creation is light, which is described as good, and ever since light has been associated with goodness. It is light that reveals and thus brings into being everything else, and in the same way this profound new poetry collection from Michael Joyce is itself an act of revelation, of creation. These poems concern themselves with light, and what it reveals. Light in its common place, that is to say, everywhere—except where it is not, in the shadows (which also serve to delineate reality); and (in an example of the wordplay that is a delight in so many of these poems) also light in its commonplace, its everyday-ness, it's casualness. "The sun pays no mind as it prowls the house / stenciling dark parallel bars upon a white plastic / wastebasket"—the sort of thing we, equally mindless, might not notice if our eyes were not directed to it by one more observant.
And Joyce observes everything. And seemingly everything he has observed over a lifetime, ranging over landscapes variously intellectual and physical (both sublime), over myriad languages and cultures, East and West, culture high and pop, often blended together in a single poem, or even line, all this is transfigured in these poems. The results are breathtaking in their audacity, and heartrending in their tenderness. "God is distant in these days," he tells us, "on whose account, his or ours, an open question / one worth addressing by someone somewhere but not here now where we are / left with the dark and the dream of emerging again and again into alien light..."
The light emanating from these poems may indeed be alien, in the sense of the strange, the unknown and unexpected, perhaps even a bit intimidating, but in the absence of God we are called to make our own new creation. If light was present at the first moment of creation, St. John reminds us that so was the word. And what wonderful words are here, in these poems, and what an amazing world they create, in no way common, but in their way, familiar, comforting, commonplace.
"Michael Joyce's poems here are dazzling and life-giving. I loved reading them, and was shocked with gladness that they are so welcoming and also strange."—Fanny Howe
MICHAEL JOYCE's sixteen books and several digital works span a career as novelist, poet, critic, theorist, digital literature pioneer, and multimedia artist. He lives along the Hudson River near Poughkeepsie where he is Professor Emeritus of English and Media Studies at Vassar College. Even before the pandemic, he says he began to think of himself as "an everyday monk, reluctant to frame this stage of my life in terms of what I am going to do, or how I feel, or in any other way that has 'now' as an antecedent. That is, I resist thinking it an end or beginning of something, but rather as a continual folding and unfolding along a dimensionless surface, not something but not nothingness." For more information, visit michaeljoyce.com.