Mature poetry from a master wordsmith, dealing with crises of cancer and pandemic, redeemed by the joy and comfort of physical love.
In the poem “Serpentine” from his new collection CAPRICORN, VENUS DESCENDANT, Michael Joyce describes himself “Caught in his own cleverness,” tumbling through “too damn many words for what’s /something everybody knows”—but he’s kidding, really, for surely no one is more in love with words than Joyce, or more skillful at teasing us with them. Consider his subtitle: we readily recognize eros, of course, and these days are grown too familiar with pandemos – but karkinos sends us to the dictionary, yielding an awareness of how these poems arise from confrontation with mortality, from a personal crisis wrapped in a global one. There are moments of “profound despair” here, of frailty and failing flesh; but they are redeemed by long-familiar and cherished intimacy, “what / love is ever even under present circumstance,” and that circumstance affords space for joy and mirth, sacred and profane entwining in wickedly delightful ways. These are mature poems in every sense of the word, and contain – like the dream that the “she” at the center of the poet’s life has at one point – “everything.”
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.