Thursday, September 30, 2010

William Crawford: soul-snatcher

I woke up this morning thinking about the poetry of William Crawford. When I think about something, I usually want to write about it. Lately I've learned, more or less, to resist that peculiar personal quirk. Or let's say I've begun to actually ask myself beforehand: why are you about to start typing? Is it a mere flush of exuberance, a goofy way to say, “I exist, because I experienced something, and others must be informed of my existence and what I just experienced”? Or have I gathered a solid impression and allowed that experience to properly the point that something worth saying has emerged? Who knows? And how come this piece on the poetry of William Crawford has so quickly turned into words about me?

I woke up this morning thinking about one of Will's recent poems – “Beguilement (or what Klaus said to the Butterfly)”. And I'm wondering how Will got to be himself. How does the world make a mind like his? More on that poem later. For now, I want to amble through my head and ponder the fact that Will's mind got made this certain way. I wonder if the distribution of enhanced consciousness among humans is a zero-sum game: some got it 'cause others ain't. Not enough of that stuff floating around for everyone to have it. If we all had minds like Will, there would probably be a cosmic consequence. The back-end of the universe would most likely collapse into a big sucking void. So...there you have it. Certain sensibilities are rare, so the World doesn't suck itself out. And the even rarer combination of sensibility and talent means Earth is not going to be an aesthetically democratic joint. To make one Will Crawford means there must be one million mundane zombies in the off-set.

Will likes the films of Werner Herzog. That pretty much says it all for me. He also likes a lot of cool music, stuff that is mostly beyond my ken. Deep blues somehow makes me feel weird. Makes me want to wrap myself, like a Terry Gilliam character, in plastic and foil to keep the intensity of that stuff at a harmless remove. So I haven't plumbed those depths to the extent that Will has.

I don't really know that much about Will. What his favorite books are. What kind of dreams he has at night. When he laughs, does he chortle or guffaw? Nonetheless, I feel a kindred something with him when I read his poems. ( it's back to me, now, is it? If this keeps up, I'll soon start maundering about a ghostly moon humming its languid lullaby to my broken heart...or something.) I wish I could find one word to describe the Crawford essence. That would simplify things for me. One word to encompass that intelligence and moxie and flair and soul-depth that his poems exude. There's probably a good word for all that in Russian. I'll just imagine there is – something with a bunch of “o”s and “v”s. It probably starts with an “s”.

One of the intensest pleasures of reading poetry is when a poem stimulates a sympathetic vibration in your soul. Some image or feeling or thought that is new for you yet seems familiar, or is something that is latent in your own sensibility. A kind of slow whiplash occurs. Some quantum theory guys and gals say that each moment splits off into infinite worlds of possibilities unrealized in this one. That's pretty far out. But maybe that déjà vu-lag we experience in certain poems is the back-flow from our possible lives. That sense of “Aha,” based on no known history, is a signal pinging in the meta-schizophrenia of our far-flung quarky selves.

I really don't know that much about Will, but some of his poems seem to know something about me.

And his poems, in general, seem to know a great deal about human experience, about the faintest registrations of being and psychological stress. Of how things fall into arrays of significance for a wide cast of characters. Yes, that's it! Will's poems are uncanny penetrations into the hearts and minds of others. He is a sensitive observer. Empathy is his orientation. And those poems have a profound ramification: they make a reader aware of the infinite strangeness and fragility and strength and beauty of persons -- some regular, some eccentric. In short, Will takes these characters over, inhabits them for a while, snatches their souls long enough to put pieces of them down on the page for us.

Reading a Will Crawford poem, you will not be subjected to an unbridled ego bellowing forlornly at the moon. Will himself is only implicit in these poems. He is in the talent and empathy and sympathy of the lines, not in the declamations of a first-person woebegoner.

Let's look at one of his poems.

Beguilement (or what Klaus said to the Butterfly)

at first
you were
a sweet irritation
to me,


filament thin wings
their papery sound

a flutter of
almost fleshy

drawn to me
as tongue is
to bad tooth

why are you
so unafraid?

is it the wind
that makes you shiver
like this,

or just the
shock of contact,


so many have seen
this net of darkness
pouring from my eyes
in torrent, in tear,

collecting in
reflective pools
pregnant and still

so few
have delved
the surface

investigated the
enlarged heart,
lent an ear to
the simple song
that beats beneath –

a restless rhythm
of survival

in bubbles
only to burst

what have you seen,
what have you heard,


can it be
my eyes –

sometimes twin tyrants raging,
other times tapped hydrants
freely flowing

a confluence of summer colors:
cooling children
leaping, and loping,
laughing through
sudden rainbow,
softly shot –

have these old tired eyes
become a light source
for you,
only you,


have you sent your
milky infant eyes
with all their warmth
past this mask I wear,
this flash frozen façade,

to a place where
the ice is
finally melting
in seismic drip?

am I both flower,
and flame,
to you,


my throbbing palm,
closed in an instant,
could disrupt
your graceful arc,
endanger your
empyreal (f)light,
with the weighted crush
of calculated impact,


a final metamorphosis,
or maybe
just a
dreamless sleep

awaits with
a killing stillness

an unbending end
to this

the easy music
and sweetly
confusing amusement
we now share

here where the light
is soft and strong

does it not
seem brighter now,


prismatic wings
unfolding smile

this odd gentling
this curious metamorphosis

I feel my blood
turning into ballet

I am a child again.

Copyright © 2010 William Crawford

"I knew there were, in myself, the souls of millions of people who lived centuries ago; not just people but animals, plants, the elements, things, even, matter. All of these exist in me."
-Klaus Kinski

Well...I intended to write a bunch of stuff about this poem. About what it does for me, what it means for me. Maybe even probe how it is that this poem is what it is. How the images and subtle conveyance of a soul light up inside my head. But that would just be a wheelbarrow full of word-junk. This poem speaks plainly and marvelously for itself.

Poet Connie Stadler suggested Will to me as a Facebook friend. I am very beholding to her.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Zen Morning

This is a painting I finished this week -- watercolors on canvas, 24" x 36"

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Some fellows type words for lines for a poem,
wishing to express themselves in a special manner.
They have something to say about something or other.
They want to share what's in their minds, their souls.

And then there is the fellow who tries to make a poem
into a little world. A special atom to contain someone.
As days and nights fail, the big world is shadowed over.
He will go into words. He will grasp at spells of words
that tremble in the spaces where memories never formed.
He will let them flow wildly, more dream than meaning...

“In that scented field of mown barley
where blackbirds skitter through dull sky
and the way it must feel is brushstrokes
gone mad with dark Dutch colors!...

There! I will surely meet you there,
at dusk when this air begins to chill
and your untouched hand is warm.”

That strange fellow will live for a day, maybe into one night
inside each little world he has made with words into a poem.

Until he discovers with a sort of shock that his words
have become cages of dead time and very empty space.
He sits blinking, looking out at what has been cordoned.
He almost smiles at how gradually he became a prisoner.

Our fellow wonders if she read them.
Our fellow is glad she probably didn't.

Or maybe he's sad.


He shrugs a shrug of resignation.
Fires up an existential cigarette.

It's high time to use the key
of hard will to break dreams.
And if that key breaks off, pour
Leonard Cohen into the lock...
The best way out of captivity
is to swim in the ridiculous pain.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fugitive Visions (my homemade "chapbook")

I put together a PDF “chapbook” of some of my poems. It's available as a free download here: