THE CARNIVAL OF AFFECTION
Winner of the JEROME LOWELL DEJUR AWARD 2016
PUBLISHER Sibling Rivalry Press
From the immediacy of the ‘frontispiece’ poems of each section, such as this second one “You enter me with spotless grammar”, you’re aware that this is a collection of poems that innately commands attention. What struck me immediately was Philip Clark’s fearless delicacy, both in his craftsmanship and perceptiveness.
In this video Robert Vaughan reads LEARNING; a recollection by Clark growing up with his father, a man by all accounts, cut from an old-fashioned, ‘man-up and roll with the punches’ kind of cloth, a shadow from which, Clark detaches himself in a declarative stance; one that is no easy choice, for all that this could have incurred, at the time.
This poem particularly speaks to the broad scope of ways in which affection is expressed; it’s protective negative connotation exposing perhaps denial and reticence of an older, conservative generation stuck in their own preconceptions of traditional ‘manhood’ and the bravery of a son to transgress every expectation his father had for the kind of man a father might wish his son to become. Who betrays whom? Or is betrayal really the point when such expressions of ‘love’ are imprisoned by generational precepts of their day and era?
Without any claim to speaking to, for, or on behalf of any agenda of identity politics, Clark leaves the door of his emotively rich inner sanctum ajar, allowing the reader into his deeply personal experience of yearning, desire, love and loss. I found myself not with words and ideas strung across page upon page, but rather within an elegant masculine landscape of sensual, erotic implication around which he explores with gentle candour, loss, friendship, family, carnal connection, lust and mourning. Clark shares moments of personal experience, with such intimacy it feels linguistically shocking at first.
And I’m not the only one to feel this impact. Other reader reviews speak similarly of being struck deeply by the sensual candour and scope of this alluring and masterful rendering of a life fully lived. We seem to live our everday experience ignoring the details as we wish it was something other than mundane and yet, in reading A FRACAS IN THE MEMORY, how many of us might be jolted and moved to tears for being reminded with such gentle humanism of innumerable moments like these, in caring for one of our own, and see perhaps, for the first time, just how exquisitely beautiful such moments really are, or were …
Lifting the veil on ‘appearances’, when this unflinching can serve quite a jolt in the moment of reading, yet I found myself smiling at JAMES, for having lived over a decade in Italy, where Catholicism still holds monumental sway and within the ‘private enclaves’ of priestly preparation for service, more is revealed that one might ever dare suppose. How I came to be there, I’ll refrain from sharing since innuendo and supposition are weapons these days and nothing sinister is being inferred here; just appreciation.
The particular grace of Philip Clark’s poetic sensibility is the depth, to which, ordinary experience is embedded and expressed, through language. Crafted with impeccable skill, the poems draw one into a vanishing point of craft and perception that is hypnotic and transcendental. I was quite thrown and had to leave reading more, for several days. Mine was an intensely visceral response to physical and psychological awakened perception. I’ve experienced similar a handful of times in the presence of profound artistry; – this was different for me – it is like being inside a painting or piece of music, only this time I felt I was within language itself, as if experiencing it for the first time, as the liminal architecturally, inhabitable space it is. It literally stopped me in my tracks. Philip Clark is not a poet who renders the what of language, but the how: It is the one moment where extraordinary seriously means something.
Quite simply, this is a collection which literally took my breath away.
PROF. PHILIP F CLARK
Philip F.Clark is Assistant Professor in English at City College, New York, where he received his MFA in Creative Writing in 2016. His poems have ben published in Assaracus, Lyrelyre, The Good Men Project, Poetry in Performance and HIV Here & Now. His work also appears in the Transition: Poems in the Aftermath Anthology of resistance poetry published by indolent Books. His poetry blog The Poet’s Grin
POET. ESSAYIST. EDITOR. PUBLISHER
A seasoned writer and editor, of forty plus years experience in media and the arts, with a deep love of originality and artistic fearlessness.
Website INCERTAE SEDES