'At Dusk Iridescent: A Gathering of Poems, 1972-1977' by Thomas Meyer
It's hard in a brief review to generalize on the best work of a quarter century by a poet as accomplished as Thomas Meyer. Every poem in his new book commands attention, each shimmers with the energy it's made of. At Dusk Iridescent draws on work published in 11 previous volumes. The poems appear on the page without date or chronology, an approach that forces us to take each on its own terms. The book moves from form to form—part of its surprise and charm—and includes free verse, sonnets, epigrams, inventions, translations, and dream journals.
Like his masters, Dante and Duncan, Meyer is a spiritual wanderer, a wayfarer. He tells us his aim is "to draw / Up what is felt like well-water." Admirable as image, more so as ambition. But even as his imagery reaches for what is instinctual, and archetypal, his dense, reverberant lines—"single, golden / unready / and leafless / like thought"—grapple again and again with the effort to reconcile feeling with its shadow, reason. His poems, in effect, make a record of the interplay of nature and consciousness. That tension supplies the driving force for this work, and gives it its strength.
Meyer's poems often challenge us to find a way inside. In "Parts of the Story" and "Illuminated Electrically," the poet supplies us only with densely compact pieces of information. For readers who want to get it, the task is to reformulate the compositional context. This takes the idea of the poem as a written replica of internal discourse to a whole other level.
"Sex is what these poems are all about," Meyer writes in "Venetian Epigrams." But that generalization could describe a large portion of his work. A subtle but powerful undertone of Eros registers throughout, most often in the sonnets ("Threesome," "A Comfortable Security") but not just there either. "Tom Writes this for Robert to Read," which originally appeared as a chapbook, weaves back and forth from domesticity to desire, much as its likely inspiration, William Carlos Williams' "Asphodel." In this piece, as in the sexy, intricately constructed sonnet sequences, Meyer lays down a flirtatious tone of casual intimacy, drawing us into the flow of his thought from just the right distance, proving Freud correct in his insistence that thought and instinct—i.e., sex—are never far apart.
t-shirt, jeans, the socks
no, leave your underwear on
height of intimacy,
Meyer combines economy of expression with exuberance of spirit, a continuing quest for faith with solid intellectual concerns. This is a poet able, for instance, to summarize a half-century's experience in a couplet ("How much there is to touch / How little to say"). "Intimacy, I'm aiming for, not tedium," he writes in "Sonnets for Sandra." His poems display a mastery of line, form, and style that is never less than confident, and he uses them to raise, if only by suggestion, the questions that have no answers.
The redness of the rose. Without that red, or the rose itself, we'd have no world, nor possible color.