Come See our New Website

Monday, March 23, 2015

Book Review: Reveille by George David Clark

2015 winner of the Miller Williams poetry prize from the University of Arkansas Press, George David Clark’s Reveille, rings in each poetic section with a reveille, or a wake-up call. Clark defines and creates his own meaning for this term—the title Reveille creates a “call” for the rest of the book, transporting the reader into the author’s painterly world of “a lattice musics,” “a bathing suit red as tomatoes,” “the gloss of lacquered walnut golds and olives jigsaw,” and “the holy face plum-colored.” Clark uses touches of color to guide the reader through this imaginary world that borders on the holy, and the first section opens with “Reveille on a Silent Whistle,” with its angelic imagery of “Two seraphs in the live oak’s highest boughs are sleeping,/constructing minutely their crystalline fretwork.”

Each section of this collection opens with a reveille, which becomes the framing device of the book. Reveille not only wakes up the reader into this world, but in each sectional reveille, the reader is introduced to another aspect of Clark’s world. Imagery that is biblically influenced, painterly-produced, and sublime floods these slow-paced and careful poems. For example, the second section opens with “Reveille with Kazoo.” Clark’s speaker travels this dream-like musicality:

                                    From your overlong, even invincible sleep;
                                    from the pink and orange moth-scales
                                    that collect on your mind like a dust;
                                    from the stately plush where you jonah
                                    in a bottled frigate’s belly;
                                    from this lopsided aerie of marigold sheets:
                                    wake up.

In this opening stanza, Clark’s anaphora builds up this dream, only to culminate the reader into a “wake up.” The language is sensual, the lines gingerly lengthened, building up the dream and moving back and forth between the spiritual, with the reference to Jonah, and the spiritual turned down-to-earth, with “this lopsided aerie of marigold sheets.” Clark’s painterly quality is also gradual: he gives us gradients of color, only to wake us up into another world, this one postmodern: “The swimming pools/of the future were born this morning.” And with each section reveille, comes multiple turns. The following poem, “Interview Conducted Through the Man-Eater’s Throat,” takes us to the opposite spectrum of colors with “Like the blue-black char in a chimney.” The poem also takes us to the opposite spectrum, challenging form in stanzas filled with question and answer. In fact, Clark utilizes the musicality of the opening to formally influence and pervade the rest of this section.

Clark pushes the modern even more with “Reveille with Reimbursement.” The collection may start with the mythical and spiritual, but Clark is able to ground and transform the book’s movement into the present day. We close with “Reveille with Lullabies,” a strategic bookend that takes the reader deep into the speaker’s persona and subconscious. Clark leaves us with a blessing:

                                    We rise when something calls us out of bed

                                    Your song’s not addressed to the dark
                                    We wake in
                                    Or for you as you dress in the dark


                                    Rise now rise now and bless us

                                    till our cries lie down cry less


George David Clark's poem, "Shadows of the Antediluvian Soldier," appeared in issue 44 of Hayden's Ferry Review. 

Dorothy Chan was a 2014 finalist for the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Blackbird, Plume, Spillway, and The Great American Poetry Show. In 2012, The Writing Disorder nominated her poem, “Ikebukuro Train Rides” for a Pushcart.

No comments: