A Brazilian Incarnation -- New and Selected Poems 1967-2004

Posted by: Bill Dodd
Published on January 31st, 2007 @ 06:29:26 pm , using 1080 words
Category: Reviews

Rain, naturally, like love, is a real beneficence to those on whom it seasonally falls—but love, when it runs the possible gamut of human emotions, and cries out its implied mission is no less than verbal cosmic detonation, becomes a thing unto itself, regardless how entwined with its object of devotion. Such a singular “love” is, at least, the theme that runs throughout Bill Pearlman’s magnum opus, Brazilian Incarnation.

I only wanted
to be here on the earth
with you held
in a fresh dance

(p. 106)

he writes in “Cleopatra On The Verge,”

Sad bird. Distress
at so much that didn’t go well,
so much that fell apart.
I did want you so much
and then could not have you.
My thirst was endless,
my heart clouded with hopes.

(p. 107)

continuing…

…Eros was our dark god
and we wanted so much to merge
forces of the living state
we almost stood within

(p. 109)

I am broken by all this
…wanting…
…just to be in the company of love
…I simply gave way
to something so utterly wild,
so crazily swept with pure indulgence
I could not help myself.

(p. 110)

He writes, near the end of the poem:

We needed to start further down
where there is simply yearning.
Where the part of the psyche less grandiose
comes through. Where a poor desire
stems the tide of all this
ecstasy and dominion,
world-conquest in exalted flesh.

(p. 111)

Well, while it is ostensibly Cleopatra addressing Antony, the voice of the poet is not to be denied. Here, in his own words, from the introduction on the back of his book of poetry is his explanation: “These poems were born of the borrowed insistence that what psychoanalysis calls the ‘object’ is more than an illusion, that she is the emphasis that makes the poems work. But on the other hand, since the muse seems to take many forms, perhaps the crunch time of desire is to realize that you must wrench the energy away from the ‘object’ and live with your own protracted subjectivity.” Here the poetic ambition is defined.

In his vision there is, at least, a metaphoric “world conquest” within the improbable human confines of love.

Not to imply love in the book is anywhere abstract, i.e., not “real” love. In “Cleopatra,” while it is a poem based on literary allusion, at the book’s beginning a “real” love affair is charted throughout the country of Brazil; hence, of course, the book’s title.

Something is shooting up in us—
the pool is green again,
the light endless
and yet there is everywhere
even in this midst of human voices
a shawl she wore overall,
a piece of history unadorned
and wanting to fill space.
…Seeds that were planted
…now stand disciplined in forests
…& the human body resurrects plentitude
and there is harvest fury.

(from “Agua Mineral,” p. 60)

On the next page, he writes:

I gave you my still laughing tale
and you embraced my domain,
all preconceptions I might have
about your hurrying light;
You were the evanescent pure
hypothesis of joy
and I loved you with a force goes further
than mere touching. This
was a great occasion for romance & mystery
for the driven shape of outrageous acts,
for this certain scope of so many hours
holding close the beauty and the dance

And so it continues. A kind of dervish of erotic reiteration that finally suggests a gestalt,a satori, of lingua amore solely designed to capture the earthly enigma of our transitory corporeity in its effulgent expression on a canvas of the eternal, the transcendent.

Such a singularity of this voice is an appeal consistent throughout the book (251 pp.), making more of a whole cloth of the collection, like breaths in a chain-of-being.

It represents an unusual, singular accomplishment; and one that requires such an intense and on-going focus that there can be no doubt as to its integrity; it bespeaks one who has dedicated himself to his vision for an indefinite period of his life.

“Would I were heaven,” he invokes near the end of the book. Perhaps, one ponders, this is really what his writing is about: to bring us a taste of what (his) heaven is, would be, was. And he says clearly:

These songs I make I make as one who blames &
blesses the insistent heart that beats a billion
times told lovelier spearing the sanctuary so bright
the entrance, the wine flowing in the bittersweet
logarithm straying up back until one espies the
solid ground of things beginning Inzorbital firing
ceremoniously into its own rare ellipse, beautifying
round the careening appetite, dashing to breathe
deliberate warmth touching

(p. 230)

The earlier (younger) poems (l967-2004) are nearer the end of the book. He shares several really “personal” moments out of his love of athletics and athletes—very much in the Grecian tradition—in his poems about Steve Prefontaine’s running in Eugene in the early ‘70s. I fault him only for failing to mention Dave Wottle’s outkicking Pre in one of those pre-Olympic events. In all seriousness, however, these poems, while still intense, do open a window to a “younger” poet still testing for his voice, as we duly note such intensity only compounds as he advances in years.

Perhaps some small biographical note is necessary to shed light on what is a classic piece of American literature. Bill Pearlman grew up in Manhattan Beach, CA; his father was a famous, early beach volleyball player there, and Bill was a “jock.” Injured young, while playing linebacker at UCLA, it has always appeared to me he took that great strength he possessed as a somewhat undersized linebacker and used it to introduce himself to the emerging psychedelic world of the early ‘60s.

There is no attempt in the book made to masquerade the fact much of its imagery derives from the psychedelic experience transcribed into its own unique poetic idiom.

At any rate, from this point-of-view, his early athletic experience was invaluable in not only surviving the Vietnam years but to his earned development as a writer. With such survival should come maturity both as a person and artist, and so it is in Pearlman’s case.

I strongly urge anyone who hopes to understand if there is another definitive level of development in the continuing history of contemporary American literature to obtain this book—and read it with the marveling that is sure to come.

2 comments

Comment from: carlos lascoutx [Visitor] Email
...eros, from elotl(N)=young green corn, xilonen the goddess, the word, curl, in greek, then on to oyloos, the song and old name for the goddess, ceres. curl/coil, itself, from, coloa(N)=color(E), and the irish, colleen(name), the word, curl=c/gurl(letra)=girl. athlete=atle(N)=no, =atleti/atletia (Nauatl pie)=to the fire/tletl, consume, burn up, e.g., t/let/l=t/l/red/t/l, red/read/letter/leer(sp)=read, from this word. writing is athletic! oh, corn is the 4th day of the tone=tonalamatl(N)=tonalli(N)=soul(calendar), besides xilonen, the old priapic coyote/ueue coyotl is on this day, whose color=red. the day=cuetzpallin(N)=lizard, the rising stick=palli(N)= phallus=day 4 of the tone/tune. in our alphabet, the 4th letter=D, and that from lizard also=taletec(N)= small lizard=t/daleth(phoenician/Heb)= D. enjoyed the poetry, tks.
05/26/10 @ 09:55
Comment from: Wilma Sorenson [Visitor]
The lock of love and its ups and downs define many a romantic. In a world so given over to greed and power, maybe love poets should be cut some slack. They at least try for something earthly and divine. Would that it were easily secured, but as your review points out, this effort can define a poet but not necessarily give him the goods. But joy is present in the trying.
03/01/12 @ 09:19