Scared Text by Eric Baus
(The Center for Literary Publishing/Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, 2011)
Whatever poisoned wave stands to block its beginning. Whether torn dove or stunned moth. In the bind. In the polished blank of a sun. How faded our horse is, starts.
In Denver poet Eric Baus’ third trade poetry collection, Scared Text (Fort Collins CO: The Center for Literary Publishing, Colorado State University, 2011), his prose lyrics are constructed out of sound as much as they are of meaning, bouncing point to lyrical point. The author of the previous trade collections Tuned Droves (Brooklyn NY/Portland OR: Octopus Books, 2009), and The To Sound (Seattle WA: Verse Press/Wave Books, 2004), Baus continues his exploration of the “elongated lyric” and the prose poem, stretching a poetry collection that includes repeated appearances of mysterious characters such as Minus, Iris and The Ur-Mane, sprinkled in amid the lyric. In eight sections—“Minotaur Stable,” “Molting Solos,” “Negative Noon,” “Puma Mirage,” “Ox Tongue,” “Scared Text,” “Lamb Comb” and “Flooded Cloud”—his titles read nearly as Lear-type nonsense, possibly constructed to equally inform and obscure.
A man with a lantern buried the tail of a gored ox in reddened wool. Both sands said this. Minus inscribed, Bathed in salt, a new bus arrives. A cold fit. Should wood be laced into the scene as ash? Embers hot, he saw another fold of the vellum effect. Would his story sleet? Was the elemental udder set to speech? A flayed colt, Iris interred the oration of a thorn. She saw inside the funerary soot. He was tainted to depict the birth of a thrush. He was an only arson, an anvil inside. Iris was cited in cloud position, as Ibis. Ibis, twice the size of a flock. An enemy of ices, her urn became a fish. Had Ibis’s urn contained a clone? The story striated, swallowed an asp.
Baus’ poems collect a series of classical and ancient images through lyric movements, creating a sequence that plumbs the depths of history, even as he twists the language to write out something else entirely. Writing of the moon, the ox and Delphi, these poems are small, lyric portraits of alternate views, each one shifting what it is we thought we might have known. His poems explore antiquity and language, providing a linguistic map through contemporary eyes. But between the poems “Stupid Moon” and “Negative Moon,” what does Eric Baus have against the moon?
Blurted, The Ur-Mane erupts, combs through growls to the coarsest salt. A thimble full of eggshell plumbs the egresses for silts. I listen for a second salt, to two horns: locked, alloyed. A moan inverts an ant, burns out in bursts. Its lisps form pools, stinging ice, clips of aberrant grass. See how green I can be. So stirred. A stem empties a range of sheep. A still invents its scene. I plead with all the strays to heap. A shark in a mason jar, scared. Such smooth. So screen. I cut to a tree.
Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa. The author of more than twenty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, he won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2011, and his most recent titles are the poetry collections Songs for little sleep, (Obvious Epiphanies, 2012), grief notes: (BlazeVOX [books], 2012), A (short) history of l. (BuschekBooks, 2011), Glengarry (Talonbooks, 2011) and kate street (Moira, 2011), and a second novel, missing persons (2009). An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, Chaudiere Books (with Jennifer Mulligan), The Garneau Review (ottawater.com/garneaureview), seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics (ottawater.com/seventeenseconds) and the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater (ottawater.com). He spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at robmclennan.blogspot.com