Poet & Vampire by Chuck Taylor
Published by MadCityPublications
Reviewed by: henry 7. reneau, jr.
Like Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert, Chuck Taylor's poetry is prose-edified to parables erecting an artifical electric fence between two camps that may disagree, but are no longer that dissimilar from one another. The result is not just a bastardization of poetry to prose, or vice versa, but a rethinking of the parameters of voice--becoming a "vehicular" language casually slipping in and out of identities, pushing against the public/private language binary:
"The poem must rhyme at the end of the line and beat in
a standard rhythm . . . "
at the heart of the formalist, pseudo-avant-garde, academic canon. Taylor writes poetry that disrupts literary business as usual, poetry that articulates the unheard, unthinkable, and unknown in tongue-in-cheek increments of satire, irony, and deprecating hindsight. Think, Groucho Marx, Stephen Hawking, and Jesus walk into a bar . . .
His collection channels dueling alter-egos of the body electric--Poet as everyman, Vampire as eternal observer of human nature--who project an optimistic expansiveness, while simultaneously evoking the visceral misapprehensions of life:
". . . is not Poet a kind of vampire? Is not Poet sneakier in the way he moves around and
listens, hiding in plain sight as an ordinary person, sucking out the blood of lives and
spitting it off the tongue and onto the page?"
At the heart of this collection resonates a spiritual but revolutionary zeal mischievously opposed to the cloying shibboleths of 2014 America: a neo-Beat that seeks to upend Western literary tradition, and develop languages and forms that reject western-influenced craftsmanship.
The alternating points of view (Poet/Vampire) create a speculative second-person poetics of observational introspection, a narrative attuned to an
". . . ancient wisdom that says at times you don't want to travel a bee line, you want to
twist this way and that, and then head back a ways, before channeling forward."
Virtues and failings, love and loss, success and comeuppance, are sifted and analyzed to finally ". . . know what we're thinking years before we're thinking it." Taylor's poetry/prose/pensees are addictive sojourns into unpredictable landscapes teeming with a confluence of the mundane and with the extraordinary, capricious realities startled by the eccentricities of the supernatural, or the human conscience juggling apples of moral virtue before an audience of absolute evil. The reader rides shotgun through the West Texas desert and encounters a naked hitchhiker, who becomes "a moving open window into another world," a view soon terra-formed to a field of sunflowers that reveal themselves as "green stalky animals with giant yellow eyes," dizzy in their adoration of the sun. The binding element in each abbreviated tale of this collection is the healthy dose of humour, ranging from vaudevillian slapstick to an almost morbid sense of eventuality that laughs at itself, punctuating each parable with buoyant closure, unexpected cliff-hanger, or a sudden curtain fall of teaser that simply turns the punch line in the direction the Poet/Vampire speaker wants it to go.
Poet & Vampire is prophet, wise man, holy man, the semi-divine trying to make a dollar outta' fifteen senses--the absurd with the willfulness of prescience, that delivers the reader from the deceptions, if not the often bizarre and unaccommodating vagaries, of life.