Im Dezember 2008 erschien bei Del Sol Press der Gedichtband „Torch Lake and Other Poems“ des amerikanischen Lyrikers Brian Johnson. Das Buch erntete Lobeshymnen noch vor seinem Erscheinen. Einer der Rezensenten beschrieb es als „die originellste und aufregendste Sammlung amerikanischer Dichtung seit Erscheinen von Larry Levis’ Elegy .” Im März 2009 wurde das Buch von der Poetry Society of America als Finalist für den Norma Farber First Book Award nominiert.
Das Titel-Gedicht lautet wie folgt:
I see a birdbath here, but no birds; a bottle of rum, but no drinkers; a piano, but no family.
These days all look the same: voiceless, headless. I am tempted to walk out, but no one would call after me, “Come back or else!”
So I stare at the water-rings and listen to the crickets.
Für die Titel-Gestaltung des Buches hatte Brian Johnson das Bild „Juli 1993 I“ von Burghard Müller-Dannhausen ausgewählt. Daraus entstand ein Austausch zwischen Lyriker und Maler und das schrittweise Entdecken mancher Gemeinsamkeiten.
Wenn Brian Johnson feststellt, dieses Titelbild sei „a door to my poetry”, dann gilt das vor allem auch umgekehrt. Die Lektüre seiner Gedichte erschließt den Zugang zur Malerei Müller-Dannhausens besser als alle theoretischen Einführungen.
Der Leser von Torch Lake and Other Poems dringt in eine Welt vielfältiger und überraschender Assoziationen ein. Die Gedichte helfen ihm, diese Welt ganz persönlich für sich aufzubauen und sie mit eigenen Bezügen, Erinnerungen und Sehnsüchten anzureichern. So eigenständig und so individuell die Vorstellungswelt des Lesers auch sein mag, sie würde niemals aus sich heraus entstehen, sondern nur durch die Impulse eines Gedichtes. Das Gedicht ist der Schlüssel zur Selbstfindung und Selbsterfahrung auf der Ebene einer epischen Uferlosigkeit.
Genau darin liegt die Übereinstimmung mit der Malerei Müller-Dannhausens, die aus der epischen Dimension der Farbe heraus lebt. Was im Gedicht die Worte und ihre Bedeutungen auslösen, das bewirken im Bild die Farben und ihre Vorstellungsräume. In beiden Fällen ist es jedoch die Kombination – hier die Kombination der Worte, dort die Kombination der Farben – die den Assoziationsschub erzeugen. Der klassische Weg, einen Zugang zu dieser Malerei zu finden, ist zwar das Medium der Ausstellung. Doch etwas Ähnliches leistet auch dieses Buch.
Stimmen zu Torch Lake and Other Poems:
The most lyrical poems (mostly in prose) that I have read in years. A silver-tongued “I” with little concern for itself, so wakeful and watchful is it embodied, and so attuned to its bounty of fabulous perceptions. A first collection brought to a nearly translucent state of shine. It moves lithely into the most splenetic of spirits, and delivers a score of “unexpected kisses,” “Pythagorean silences,” and glorious uncertainties—as if they were all daily occurrences.
Torch Lake and Other Poems is the most original and exciting collection given American poetry since Larry Levis’ Elegy was published. There’s more juice, scope, imagination and sheer vitality in this work than in twenty run-of-the-mill collections. Johnson’s metaphors oscillate, the force and drive of his language overwhelms, undermines, and ultimately encourages. All this bathed in a magical realist wildness that somehow proves once more, what Stephen Dedalus understood, that true art must be forged in the smithy of—in this case Johnson’s—soul.
Anyone who’s read Brian Johnson’s poetry over the years has been waiting for his first full-length book to arrive. It’s become a cliché to call someone a “master of the prose poem,” but Johnson has earned the title. These poems are intelligent, moving, surprising, but above all expertly crafted. Johnson writes: “One must be ready to sit under the pine trees at noon, with a few prayers, waiting for night and the unflickering truth.” No longer do we have to wait; it’s here in Torch Lake and Other Poems.
I have long admired Brian Johnson’s writing and so welcome with enthusiasm and heaps of praise Torch Lake & Other Poems to our world. These poems are kaleidoscopic one moment and minimalist the next. They provide the pleasure of cacophony followed by sweet concord, breathless sentences of surprising length—enough to shame Faulkner—and column fragments, pithier than those condensations of Pound’s. Read this work: I can’t find sufficient praise for it.
Brian Johnson, der Autor von Torch Lake and Other Poems, wurde in Michigan geboren und verbrachte eine abwechslungsreiche und bewegte Kindheit in New Jersey, Kalifornien, Georgia und Minnesota. Nach Erreichen des B.A. in Berkeley arbeitete er als Tennislehrer, Filmvorführer, Buchverkäufer und Kellner, bevor er mit dem M.F.A. sein Studium an der Brown University abschloß. Seine Gedichte erschienen in vielen Zeitungen und Zeitschriften, darunter American Letters and Commentary, The Prose Poem: An International Journal, Quarter after Eight, Sentence, Connecticut Review und West Branch. Brian Johnson erhielt einen Academy of American Poets Prize, eine Connecticut Commission on the Arts Fellowship und zwei Nominierungen zum Pushcart Prize. Er lehrt Komposition und kreatives Schreiben an der Southern Connecticut State University, wo er dem Senat seiner Fakultät als Präsident vorsitzt.
Torch Lake and Other Poems
von Brian Johnson
Del Sol Press, delsolpress.org
$14.95 Paperback / 88 Seiten
Private Bestellungen: Amazon.com oder Barnesandnoble.com
Handelsbestellungen: Ingram Book Distributors, ingrambookgroup.com
Weitere Gedichte aus Torch Lake and Other Poems:
Self-Portrait in Green
First it was a green bed, then a pair of six-foot green bookcases, and a green headdress. When I sat down to write each morning, I wrote with a green pen. Not only the ink, but the pen. I became green from the ground up, as green as the lumber—if not greener. It was my dream. The pieces were all green. And when I found the box of green sun, my white sun went into hiding. I could no longer breathe without green, the green could no longer breathe without me. Together we formed this strange valley, looking west, to those pinnacled hills. . . .
The land nearly at peace: barns silent, harrows in place.
Sky heavier, and more austere.
Roads with a colder look. Roads before men.
Old pick-ups—hoodless, windowless—waiting for the rain.
Beer-colored grass. The wind nudging a dirty tablecloth.
A child wide-eyed with a sign: FRESH VEGES.
Homecoming: the leaves turn a red-orange.
The big smoke from chimneys—late afternoon, sky a flawless blue—fleeting.
Bodies, feet, under the moon-white silos.
The wind advancing. And no one looking.
Families have the look of handmade toys. Dutch families are made of cork. British families are made of pipe cleaners. German families are made of sealing wax. Italian families are made of stick-pins. When those families cross the ocean, they become American, and American families are made of wood. Their wood is of two kinds: painted or untreated. In either case, the wood cracks. And then, the national humidity leads to warping: fathers and daughters split, sons turn to driftwood, and mothers turn to flat-bottomed boats. No one can stop it. Still, the pieces stay in place, as if the toymaker were controlling their fates. You see these wooden families at the movies. You see them at amusement parks. You see them wearing odd, brightly-colored outfits and standing on lawns. Their woodenness is so obvious, at times, that you’d almost prefer knocking and pounding them to caressing them. Then again, you are struck by the superior blank-faced solidity of the American family. Surrounded by their great dollhouses, the Americans seem immovable on the world stage, just as the Dutch seem resilient, the Brits eccentric, the Germans circumspect, and the Italians lively. You might wish that American families had a different character—more subtle, perhaps—but their simple and heroic materiality cannot be topped. When you’re content to merely stare at them, and look no further, the soul of wood is irresistible.
My Apartment, My Sadness
When I return to it, when I return to my seat, alone, with a view of two rooms, mine and theirs, her pacing, him staggering and crying, all of us ready to talk, I pause—and, spreading the wings of a paperback in my lap—I consider how my life is spent, devouring novel after novel, ignoring the clock, ignoring bedtime and worktime, for the simple joy of finishing it, then raising the Venetian blinds and considering the lagoon, a couple in a gondola, a square, and all the rest, familiar from earlier scenes, in other novels, novels about characters in search of a home, a more beautiful spot, free of wounds, where the foxgloves bloom and the inhabitants stay, where conditions rarely vary from the ideal, which is unearthly: to be left inside, to be left outside, to be childless, to be penniless, are earthly states, acceptable, pleasurable, as long as some afternoon light falls, and the orange peels, and a can grows warm on the seat-arm, while I feel the pivotal moment: a woman who speaks for her sex, such beautiful letters, she comes to ruin, she comes to the unthinkable act, the final movement of a day, all afternoon, all morning, a night lying up in bed, eager for it to happen, savoring the inevitable break, knowing the novelist has prepared me, but has not prepared me, and so what happens next will not be realistic, or romantic, or tragic, or witty, but disturbing in a way I cannot understand, trapped as I am in my life, in my apartment and my sadness, which can take no further turns for the worse, as in a novel when the main character has passed through the stages of inner turmoil only to enter the stage of complete desolation, for which the only solutions are the monastery or death, a final retreat or a final advance, to put it in terms of warfare, for I can see that this love, like all loves beginning in perfect harmony, will end on a strange and unfathomable note, denying the possibility of a future, a still-higher music, such as the birds make in their feeders and dead-tree nests, first thing in the morning, before I’ve even splashed my face and kissed the picture, who will soon become my wife, not knowing the worst about me, for I expect a violent end, in which I stand making breakfast, not answering the phone and not looking for work, crying over the scrambled eggs, ruined as easily by life as I was ruined by famous authors and their stories of affairs, written in the third person, omniscient, as if that increased their wisdom, as if that put things in the proper perspective, all the crying, the staggering characters returned to their box, the oil and blood dried up, the author’s hands cleanly withdrawn, leaving the reader, me, the first person in the empty room, raising the Venetian blinds, returning the paperback to its place, staring at the untouched rows, far hungrier than I ever thought possible, and far heavier.
I am the tool-using animal (homo faber), the social animal (zoon politikon), and a man. I bring my hammer. My lips are wet and round. But you hide in another box, lower and deeper than the world. That box has a massive lid, which homo faber cannot pry, and zoon politikon cannot see. At bottom, I am not thoughtful. I know that the peanut butter will not be where I put it today, nor the umbrella where I put it tomorrow. I cannot make love like zoon politikon, or build a summer house like homo faber. But I use the language well. I love my wife. And I keep asking.