Friday, December 31, 2004

Finding Talented Writers

Brain, Bone & Other Matter
Poetry and fiction by Cynthia Ruth Lewis.

I want to end the year on an upbeat note; to announce that, yes, there are many overlooked talented writers in this country. This is not a ULA myth or dream.

Discovering their work is an adventure. Unknowingly you open an envelope and begin reading a chapbook. Your mind drops, lost, into the words. Without thinking you say, out loud, "Wow! This is as real as it gets."

Logically I tell myself that establishment literature, the many foundations, agencies, conglomerates, have made a many-billion-dollar investment in finding and promoting writers. It'd be absurd to think that we (the ULA) as self-appointed representatives of the underground, with no funds at all, could compete with these huge bureaucracies straight up. There must be a gap; we can only wait for them to collapse. Then I read the much-applauded work of establishment poetry and fiction award winners-- the "best of the best"-- and read also the words of undergrounders from the crude zeens in the envelopes in my mailbox, and realize there's no gap at all. If there is, it's in the other direction.

Cynthia's poems seem inocuous.

"Although it's true, I do not speak,
I merely breathe, I merely think--
to live my life, why justify?
There's much to me, but privately,
I keep it from the public eye."
(from "Exhibition.")

Simple rhyme, but like any good writer she's setting up the reader for an emotional payoff. Rhyme in this case is the prodding that will take you through the theater door to her play of emotion.

"Physical contact; open arms-- she only wanted promises"
. . . . . . . . . .
"And when it is over, when it is done,
even with their dead, spent weight full upon her
and their seed already cold on her thigh,
the flutter of her heart beating, wings rustling louder
than the fluorescent Vacancy hum--
her dimming halo, no longer a light to guide by,
but still brighter than the flashing sign outside
the window remains, pulsing,
like a fingered vein within the hallowed darkness."
(from "Resurrection at Motel 6.")

This is a poet who understands words and language well enough to create a rhythmn of sound. She understands euphony (a lost art)-- notice the internal cadence and rhymes. An artful use of words-- the words merely vehicles for conveying truth and emotion. They're paint daubs intended to leave, when the poem is over, a picture of emotion.

Cynthia Ruth Lewis in her short poems and honest prose captures the feelings of the put-upon, the overlooked, the ignored, the withdrawn. She wonders in a preface if her work is "too dark; too offbeat." Not at all. What literature needs is writing whose power lifts the words off the page. Undergrounders do this in many ways.

What keeps me on track in this quixotic project is to stumble upon good unknown writers. They affirm my ideas-- as if the universe, having noticed my lonely protest at the National Book Awards (there like a nut with my signs and flying bird hat-- treated like a nut by security and the cops) as reward is showing me the other side of the literary moon; writers who do in fact exist out there whose words outshine those of the glittery rich posers and fakers at Book Award galas.

(Zeen reviews coming next week.)


Adam Hardin said...

The Monday Report dealing with Dave Eggers was an interesting one on which it is fair to base this joke.

Nothing Dave Eggers has ever written is remotely good enough to be bound in leather. The only thing Dave has that would be justifiably bound in leather is his wife.

Anonymous said...

These sound like really good poems, thanks for bringing them to light. I really like her seemingly effortless use of language and imagery in classical ways. Very good. To compare them to Emily D. might be obvious, but seems to fit. Thanks.

chilly charlie said...



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