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A while back, a now dead poet named Ron Newsome did a review of Ed Sanders book Investigative Poetry for ROOTDRINKER during the Journal of the St. Lawrence Border Country days. I saw Ed Sanders when he featured at the Caffe Lena Poetry Festival on April 11, 2009, I asked him if he remembered the review. "Remember the review," he said, "It was the only review." I was shocked at that possibility, but not totally knocked into the land of disbelief because I get the reality that even readers are rare as cricket-frog's playing violin when the swamp is frozen and a review, well that is not put out there that often. I don't call this a review, just some comments on his latest, POEMS FOR NEW ORLEANS, sent in the spirit of friendship and communication.
Ed Sanders wanted to write this book. He has lots of projects he is working on and thus he didn't have to make time and space for this one. Actually, there is a bit of a story. Michael Minzer offered to fly Sanders and his wife Miriam anywhere in the world where he would write poetry for a CD for Minzer's Paris Records. They eventually picked New Orleans where the recording began during Mardi Gras '07. In his introduction he says "I decided to create a sequence of works steeped in the history of the City, past and present. The poems seemed to pour out, many more than could fit on a 70-minute CD, so a book came to life!" I have the CD also but I'm a fan of paper & ink: the black crows of ink, as Sanders himself once said.
History, why it has to be here? You know the old saying that history is written by the victors. There is official school text book history and even books about what they left out of the tale (ugly things which as a historian myself I could tell you a few). Ed Sanders creative force able to be a synthesizer of particulars. New Orleans as Sanders evokes (conjures) and invokes through memories, words left & made, poetics backpacked in... Why New Orleans found here is the only place worth studying, although of course you come out the other side? Through-out this book when he says polis its like a little chime that rings "Olson" "Olson" Katrina then hovered above the Polis/as if waiting for an e-mail. Anger at "Unearned Suffering" and "Secret Poverty" and "Bead Greed" as he writes of Truckers hauling FEMA trailers/at hyperinflated rates! Ed Sanders poet on the ground reporting from The City of New Orleans. Bush, Chertoff, Brown, Blanco but other devils were dancing too.
Here's a phenomenon I try to avoid. You meet someone new, discover they have liberal to radical politics and then you emotionally charge through a litany of anecdotal and factual items with them discussing the ills of the world only to run out of juice and both sink into depression. I doubt that would happen with Ed Sanders. I'm sure he gets tired and discouraged like the rest of us but his mind, his art, his language leap beyond and fundamentally jubilate human universe with his humor and love of life. When I crack an Ed Sanders book I'm already anticipating creative language, often making me smile at the hipster rag he ragas.
The control of testosterone
& the patterns of anger in the genome
came about through generous waving of the Bible
plus structures of fun and politeness
--from poem Teeming Docks—New Orleans 1820-1860
Maybe it is the beatific sense but the only others are Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg where I do find such spontaneous verve. When Ron Newsome reviewed Investigative Poetry he said Poetry must address ourselves to the actual problems of Polis-Bios-Cosmos Relationships not solved by the powers-that-be as well as point out thoses failures and dismantle the war machine. Ed Sanders is a poet easily covering that scope. As much an instruction as any of his earlier work, the poems On the Way (She was afraid of bees/ and wore an expensive veiled cap from the internet); Unearned Suffering (The River of Malice/ is one strong force/ to block); Echoes of Heraclitius (O my God!/one of my neighbors was floating with/ her hair entangled in a tree limb)and My Darling Magnolia tree (The secret mind no longer/whispered through the axions of wonder.) All instruction for the City of New Orleans on the Mind. Make the revolution a tall tale, Some FEMA Trailers in Hope --- I don't believe it could of happened compared to Ed Sanders who writes it down. Actually, I lied-- I do believe this story poem entirely, including the humor of its telling incredulous action and lean back off a barstool accounting by Jonathan Abner Tobias Pissoff and with other guys involved Tony the Beatnik and Marnie, Jimmy Joe the Hillbilly Boy's cousin. Seems there was 10,000 FEMA trailers sitting unused in a lot in Hope, Arkanas that sure could be used in New Orleans where people had no place to live. Story goes they did six runs and the last just barely past a police stakeout with the idea to leave the last FEMA trailer by Marie Laveau's crypt in in St. Louis Cemetery. Man we were happy, poem says, Mark Twain could have put our little caper/in one of his books. I feel better just for the humor released. Definitely an Ed Sanders trait but for me a release cause I'll write a humorous poem and think well this has to go over here away from my serious work and it be good to be reminded truth and fun go together.
Beyond the human dimension self-centered me first polis there was "a heartless act of wild nature." On the stage at Caffe Lena and in his conversation back at his table Ed wanted to share his poetic touch on the mythology (a mythological present also a trait in his body of work) he had kenned from the gumbo of his New Orleans experiences - that Poseidon (who's not very bright as the gods go) was the hand that flooded the city. He adapts from Euripides, TROJAN WOMEN lines 48-97 how Athena (protectress of ancient cities) enlists Poseidon to destroy the Achaeans even through she just helped them to capture the City of Troy for Ajak raped Cassandra in my Shrine Athena tells Poseidon bragged to the Greeks, and goes unpunished. Ed Sanders asks 3,289 years after What crime does Athena descry? Is there any? He lets Ajax loose in New Orleans in the poem Rape with MOM (motive opportunity means) for scions of Ajax to depredate. Tells of Grace Lebage who wrote a song about her personal horror she preformed in San Francisco to raise money to rebuild a couple of cottages. In the poem To Poseidon he addresses the god as he stands after the flood:
Maybe you were just trying to build some wetlands?
But we are not crayfish
we are, for better or worse,
sacks of sentient water
about to leave Gaia
for the Pontchartrains of the Beyond