Saturday, July 24, 2010

Charles Bane Jr.: Introduction to a Poet

Charles Bane Jr.: Introduction to a Poet
Diana Peck
For you, colored flowers that sleep and dream beneath the snow
are waked and given drink and asked to form in circle about your loving face. I borrow an hour of summer light to keep them new, and rich
as the windows of Sainte Chapelle; a jeweled room in France
catches music from stars and pipes it like the flowers. Fireflies lie
as diamonds on the frozen ground. A torch of them are not like you,
but stir when you are pleased. For that alone, they're melted.

In reading this poem we are given a window ~ as the windows of Sainte Chapelle ~ to the art of Charles Bane Jr. Soft light of gradient hues, delicately sculpted and hewn just so. This is a poetry borne of an intimate connection to a rarified aesthetic. Note the smooth cadence as one is moved through the work. It feels as a reflective walk, a moment of slow epiphanies, a soft exhalation borne of knowing and living deeply. As one recent reviewer described his work, it bears the ‘a subtle glow from that older time.’* Work that well meets the poet’s own criteria of resonant verse as: “description of the intangible that explodes into meaning then falls softly.”

As seen in a line such as “[f]ireflies lie/as diamonds on the frozen ground” there is a deep musicality embedded in subtle prosody. The imagery affects the reader as an infusion of recognition, a shared knowing and implicit understanding.

In Bane’s words such harmony and consonance are intrinsic to the very nature of the creative process, a process of opposition. “The poems write me; I transcribe them. But in order to do so, my emotions must be naked. It's a maddening process----and glorious. I love writing poetry. I hate writing poetry.”
Thus “poetry is the ultimate paradox.”

This notion of paradox becomes clearer in consideration of this poet’s understanding of the interrelationship between artist and creation; the paradoxical realization that while the word must remain ‘impersonal’
1000% the poet is in the poem ~ character will out. Emily Dickinson,
every reader knows her goodness. If you aspire to greatness to be great, you cannot do this ~ as simple as that. Humility is absolute bed rock.

The mention of Dickinson speaks to the essential evolution of the artist.
When asked about seminal influences, his responses are as rich and complex as the very nature of his art. He begins with a discussion of poets and poetry.
To this day, Virgil's "Georgics" is my favorite work. The Greeks. Yeats. As I grow older, e.e.cummings more and more, for his craftsmanship. Dylan Thomas carries you through youth, but not into maturity. Modern poets Anthony Hecht and Elizabeth Bishop inspired me. Late in life I discovered St. John of the Cross. I'm very rooted and I don't want to write mystical poems, but there's fearlessness in mystic poetry that strengthens me in my work.

He then moves on to speak of two aesthetic lodestones his brother, Peter,
and the work of Marc Chagall. There are common themes.
My brother is a painter. He is without question the gentlest man I have ever met. He has affected my work in many ways the same as Chagall ~ whose
work most often ~ accompanies my published poems. When I was sixteen I remember going to the Art Institute of Chicago with him. I looked at his [Chagall’s] paintings and there was an affirmation of what I was writing about. This was terribly important as I was not caught up by sports and the like… I remember flying across the air of Paris with him~ bouquet of flowers turned to birds in hand. What a loving, lovely man he was! No conflict whatsoever with human kind ~ deeply romantic and no misplaced surprises, so very gentle.

Both men are celebrated in his Poem for My Brother:

In the Fall, oak leaves blew as we
in the courtyard of the Art Institute. It
was afternoon now, and my brother drew in
charcoal. In the morning we had flittered in
the galleries, and lighted on a Van Gogh, and
pecked Vincent's chairs of straw. We whisked away;
we were afraid of Vincent's fields, and broad strips
of hammered spell. We fell into a Chagall and I saw
my brother bow his head in a reverence of night. Then,
out again. I followed my brother, I did as he. I bent
in wheat and held a scythe, or watching him, made
merry like a star. I reached as he, eyes shut,
to grace. Now I sat in the falling day and watched
him sketch, the leaves identical as we.

There is such a strong link between Chagall’s vivid use of color and Bane’s softly luminous imagery. In looking at ‘broad strips of hammered spell’, there is a leaping off the page. The moment is a translucent suspension and permanent impress at the same time. ‘[R]everence of night, ‘bent like wheat’ ‘merry like a star’ are not only penetrating images, but seem to speak to that which is most essential. Tremolos, here. The words ‘eyes shut, to grace’ tell us all that is needed in dazzling economy.

Of course there is also the influential element of Chagall’s Jewish heritage and again, Bane and Chagall are joined. This is brilliantly seen in his poem of imaginary dialogue, The Two:

I think when God
walked shy to Moses,
stars clustered in his hands,
he led our rabbi down
to the orchards of the heart.
The two walked near the other
and traded dreams like brothers
before sleep. They paused
afield and watched the sun,
lifted by themselves in unison,
race overhead. And Moses knew
not to disappoint this man
with faltering steps or speech.
God wept uncomprehending
of His artistry and Moses scratched
some lines in stone to honor
a beloved friend.

Here God is deliberately humanized as companion and friend. Friendship is the core here. Yes, the sun rises for this union, but God is not the omnipotent, omniscient power that many see in the Old Testament. He trembles, he weeps as corporeal form in incomprehension of what he has wrought. Moses responds with equal tenderness, the etching of ‘some lines in stone’ in the love of brethren.

The artist speaks to this work and of his recognition of the imperative to recognize history, both artistic and the coursings of Man.
In one poem, I wrote of the encounter between God and Moses. God is the more vulnerable of the two. I'm not religious, but Westerners know the narrative. In the Renaissance, everyone understood the common symbols and personalities painters described on canvas. That was my motivation. In speaking to the experience of faith, I try to cast it in new light. Thousands of poets have preceded you, but every poet is wrestling with the same cycles and themes. If you have your own voice, you will say something new. The well is bottomless.

In one of the most comprehensive assessments of the artist’s work, Tim Buck speaks of the beauty and importance of this poem as well as the seamless, perfected holism so characteristic of Bane’s work.
This is a perfectly made poem. It doesn't get any better than this. It's like a Mozart composition – an added note or one taken away would wreck the intrinsic, natural beauty of this whole. The “music” of the lines sings to us like a distant siren, with barely audible overtones of ineffable significance. Each beat of word would bring a smile to Ezra Pound. … It is a brilliant creation.

When asked of life challenges, Bane speaks obliquely of pain, saying only, ‘it is in the core of every artist’. But he demonstrates a profound sensitivity to universal agonies. My Old Soul speaks to the meaning and magnitude of the legacies of the Holocaust.

My old soul has sung before.
It has lain many hands in mine;
I reach for yours, and link it to he
who needs. He stands in Bergen-
Belsen in the rain, waiting his turn
to expire. He takes hands he cannot
save and sighs and breathes
the gas. He is a petal;
I see inside his heart. I love you as
he and they who follow down
the stairs. My hand takes yours and hers
and his. Be careful of their souls, they
are little suns. They rise in me and flame
the sanctuary where we stand, betrothed.

Note the repetition of ‘hands’ ~ the hands of the human chain, the hands of the lost that cannot be held, the hand of the ultimate triumph of redemptive love. We are married to one another, so is the human bond and we are scarred, haunted and impelled. Buck again:
[T]here is a confident tone to carry the unthinkable memory into a conspiracy of souls. That memory, still flickering in shocked time, is a candle to light present love with a deep, familial luster. A ghost stirs in this poem, and its presence is a necessary unforgetting.

The notion of a ‘conspiracy of souls’ is enormously powerful. Bane’s deep rich humanism goes deep.
It speaks to his conception of the necessary relationship between writer and reader as succinctly expressed. “We owe them.”

The passion of conviction never more sharply comes into focus than in the poet’s notion of the importance of the fusion of art and the Digital Age. While his words refract the beauties of aged wine and sepia overtones, Bane has a profound appreciation for the import of 21st century social networking sites such as Facebook as a modality of artistic outreach and connection.
Facebook is invaluable to me. In so many ways posting is more important than publishing. The responses are immediate and not anonymous. You are linked across the globe Think of it! What if Johnson, Wilde, Voltaire had pages? Think of Marcel Proust posting on his death bed. Emily Dickinson, an unpublished recluse, what if she had a page?

Moreover, in such environs a not only does a true community of poetry exist but the health and vitality of the entire art form is promoted:
I read poets who have never been published, and whose work touches me. I have perhaps thirty poet Facebook friends. I'm wary of academic poets, who rarely post their work. I encourage and bond with ordinary people doing ordinary jobs who've taken on the task of writing poetry. I want my poems read by everyday people; I want my poems to reach their lives. It happens there.

In listening to Bane, in reading his work, one cannot help but be washed over with a something akin to a secular spiritualism. In ways that defy the facile, the reductive ~ in the end, it is love. In his work You ~ one of the very few writes Bane “could not improve” he speaks to a central universal life plateau, the inevitability of finding the life partner, that person with whom you will spend the rest of your life.

I came upon you
when I was a child
and kept the memory
close, through every
feverish year. My hair
was silk from corn; yours,
black as the birds upon the snow
I fed the winter long. I opened books
at night and looked at barest
trees and wished for Spring. I watched
for leaves birthing like the stars. I made
poems, and saved the lights I found
waiting in my marrow. One day I would tell
you of the music I heard between its honey-
combs and followed til words rested
on a page. You would understand. You
would hold the glass and pour my amber
work until it filled you to a brim.
You would say, this flames the trees
and you are the harvester of my soul.

Yes, in reading Bane we come to not only understand, see much, we, in turn, become the harvesters of the riches of a rare artistic soul.

{*Tim Buck, when words glow and glide: the poetry of Charles Bane Jr,


L Morgan Reynolds said...

So humbled at having the pleasure of reading your poetry..hearing your voice..and being able at a moments notice to tell you I love what you wrote ~

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the delightful glimpse of this poet, that is, Charles.

The whole experience was tender, generous and insightful.

A beautiful poet.


Stephan Anstey said...

Fantastic. I'll definitely be following Mr. Bane now

Anonymous said...

Love his poems...he is an amazing poet! Gabriela Segal

Anthea said...

Exceptionally poignant and insightful words...Am honoured to be in the "conspiracy of souls".The Luddite in me has finally been persuaded of the incredible benefits of the digital age:Without FBook I would not have encountered the wonderful poetry Mr Bane!.. Anthea H

Marian Love Phillips said...

So proud that he is my friend on excellent poet in our time! Keep up the great work Mr. Bane!