Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Tom Clark: At the Fair at BlazeVOX


Saying grace before the barbeque dinner at the Pie Town, New Mexico Fair: photo by Russell Lee, October 1940 (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress)

I've known and read Tom Clark for almost half-a-century as a master of many genres: a writer of plays, biographies, novels; as an editor and critic -- but always foremost, as a poet. At the Fair gives glimpses of this poet peering through the eyes of his reflection in the mirror of time and reporting on the memories of that image. Part autobiography of the author in shards; part philosophy of atmosphere and thought; part natural history of air, land and water; part defense of the local; part the literate writer at work, translating, being distracted by the logic and beauty of language: this book, which I read straight through, is a tribute to a lifelong addiction: a mutable one-handed keep-awake smack in the forest of loss. One's hat is raised as observation passes. -- Tom Raworth

Remembering his first glimmers of vocation as a boy in power-charged mid-century Chicago, Tom Clark has given us some of the most beautiful American Poems that I know. At the Fair is the work of a living master. -- Aram Saroyan

Not nostalgia transports us here, but the sweet pulse of "vanished ephemerae", love of the Voyage, the illumination, and "throbbing rituals" of a life lived always inside poetry. Tom Clark's prodigious archive of memory trembles on the edge of a teetering universe, calls us back toward the imagination of Reverdy, Vallejo, Ungaretti as witness to the power and thrust and ethos of language. "The universe is strange, the universe is dangerous, the universe doesn't answer the phone." Indeed. But Clark does answer here for all us dreamers. -- Anne Waldman

I read At the Fair driving through the vertiginous rock castles of Utah on the way to Moab, and it hit me like a gong in perfect synch with the incredible landscape. Memory, time, and the suffering of puny humans who resonate nonetheless with beauty, are indelible in this work; it is majestic, profound, and smart. For a language-user that's about the utmost. You can read this in a cave and you'll know grandeur. -- Andrei Codrescu

Doors swing open on this shock of light. Here you will experience scripts and mind-telegrams, shapely in nerve and essence, moving always, and moving on. A circus at the settlement's edge: with memory-movies, new songs, and travellers' tales. We are reminded of frontier days when poetry was the better politics, proud inside itself. As Tom Clark's fresh voice echoes, and re-echoes, so beautifully, in the head. Across oceans and continents from Mediterranean California. And back. Mind kites in marine haze. Streaks. Showers.
"A theory of games is not the same thing as games," the poet says. Hitting on the precorporate is no retreat. Let this book happen. Its pleasures are subtle and true. -- Iain Sinclair

What a world. Every sinew in Tom Clark's verse-and-prose combine, taut and eloquent as can be, answers to a bevy of emergent occasion beyond the door, under the bed and in every phantom portfolio, whatsoever the unseen powers have slipped over gadzillion cubicles and the overextended imaginations of this our Earth. The poet's smooth lines and sudden-sprung fancy are the gentle observer's only comfort here. Large as that is, expect no closure as the page flips from "This is where we came in" to "So here we go." Go with Tom, boldly. -- Bill Berkson

"M'illumino / d'immenso," as Ungaretti wrote in Santa Maria La Longa on the 26th of June, 1917; "Morning arrives / Big Time // (Morning arrives / Wide Eyed)," as Tom Clark 'translates' it, in Berkeley, California, on the 12 of June, 2010. What a pleasure it was for me to read it that morning, posted there on his blog ( accompanied by an array of amazing photos -- closeup of a "Peach Glow" water-lily just after rain; astronaut's view of an ash cloud from a volcanic eruption, Mt. Cleveland, Alaska; the Hubble Space Telescope's image of the Cone Nebula (seven light years long, 2,500 light years away); one final closeup of Red-eyed Tree Frog standing on a bright green leaf near Playa Jaco, Costa Rica. So now too what a pleasure to read this book, having seen it 'in pieces' each morning with the pictures that are here 'missing.' But if these words are all that remain of such an original work (words plus pictures), are they 'ruins' -- Shelley's "shattered visage" around which "the lone and level sands stretch far away"? Yes, in one sense, because the poems are (as Tom says in a comment on the blog) "a mythic history of presence within the irretrievably lost"; but also no, since the words are still here, and in each present moment of reading invite us to imagine those now missing pictures along with the "disquietudes" of the world they look at and think about and feel, the one that "Just before sunrise... seems to wobble slightly on its axis." And so as Tom writes at the end of "Homecoming," "here we go." -- Stephen Ratcliffe

(Click on side link for more information about this book)


u.v.ray. said...

You devil, Tom.

I do not believe you mentioned it was coming!

I shall look forward to owning it.



Great to see this here, after not being 'here' these last few days (up in the mountains at 10,000 feet (maybe last days of summer?), sunlit peaks against cloudless blue sky, and here we are back in the fog again - - -


grey whiteness of fog against invisible
ridge, motion of green leaves on branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

color between lines, made so
composition in some way

groundless from every ground,
what, though to be sure

triangular peak against bright blue sky,
shadowed grey of peak to the left of it

~otto~ said...

Tom, this is wonderful news. I am definitely buying a copy. Any chance of this becoming available for Kindle or Actub?

John B-R said...


billymills said...

Great news, Tom.

Anonymous said...

Ordered. Can't wait to receive it. And welcome back Steve. "groundless from every ground" hits home around here at the moment. Ultra-clear weather, though; absolutely no fog.

TC said...

Having spent the past week in the Valley of the Shadow, one is uplifted to the peaks. For a moment. Thank you for that, Stephen.

And thank you one and all. I don't think these poems would have happened without the inspiration you have so generously provided...



Yes, "uplifted to the peaks." And now all I want to do is get back up there. Wish I could send you a photo here, if only for a glimpse. . . .

Meanwhile, this ---


light coming into sky above black plane
of ridge, silver of planet below branch
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

‘psychic facts’ in real time,
between time and events

also depth, bird came flying,
don’t look at the trees

grey-white fog against invisible ridge,
circular green pine on tip of sandspit

Ed Baker said...

as usual I AM
the last to know...

just a moment ago I ordered

just so's i don't peak too early

I start out slowly and taper

TC said...

That's my pace too, Ed, a slow putter.

‘psychic facts’ in real time,
between time and events

also depth, bird came flying...

Robb said...

Any chance this is going to be available on Kindle? Or Mancalit?

TC said...


Kindle, Actub, Mancalit, it's all good. I know little to nothing.

The earlier request prompted me to put in a dim-bulb question to the publisher, who informs me that there are problems with poetry formatting conversion (I am terminology-challenged here) on Kindle...

As you have doubtless already gathered, Robb, I am pretty much in the dark in this area (among so many others, as I am always reminded when I sneak over to your blog after hours, furtively mingling with the living under cover of memory loss), but am open to suggestions, and appreciate any idea, or thought; especially as I am aware that you know approximately a million times as much about this stuff as I ever will.

TC said...


Rather than give you the dimwitted-old-person's-translation version, since you've been good enough to pursue this, here's the word from the horse's mouth, the very energetic, inventive (and busy) publisher at BlazeVOX, Geoffrey Gatza:

"...briefly, no on the kindle version. The reason why is because poetry comes out looking awful on it. I am working on a way to get iBooks, Apple’s iPad books program to work with PDF’s. I am signed up with them, but it will take a bit of time for poetry to work on the devices. The main problem is because it is a very old version of HTML and uses odd text spacings. So a fiction book with standard paragraphs will look just dandy, but it just doesn’t understand poetry breaks yet. But it will at some point soon, and when that happens I’ll have this, as with all our other books, right up on there as a shining star in the galaxy of technology!"

aditya said...


Thank you very much for this book.

Beautifully penned paeans to your generously immaculate pulse about everything we call life. And to the probing foresight your poems possess Tom.

. . is a tribute to a lifelong
addiction: a mutable one-handed keep-awake smack in the forest of loss. One's hat is raised as observation passes.

lives with me tonight.

TC said...

Well, perhaps modesty permits the appreciation of a nicely-penned paean every now and then...

Anonymous said...

At the Fair arrived from Amazon yesterday. Usually detective novels and thrillers, not poetry books, are the types of books one describes as reading cover-to-cover. This is an exception. I'm very pleased and excited to own it.

TC said...


Thanks so much, this means a lot.