Monday, August 11, 2008

The Lit World

I’ve never personally met Tim Miller so I can’t make any wise cracks about his personal habits all I can do is review this very excellent book The Lit World. The book is subtitled “Poems from History” to give you some idea of the contents. I’m actually a harsh judge of contemporary poets writing historical poems probably because of my attempt at a History major. And though you can fall out of love with a program you can’t fall out of love with a subject. Here’s a story. In High School anytime we got an exchange student from Europe the first thing he or she’d do is critique the student body for its lack of general historical knowledge until they met the handful of history buffs every high school has. I’d say the fact that anyone with the ability to recall historical data earns the label of “history buff” does a better job illustrating my point. We tend to operate as if we are somehow separate from all that’s happened prior to our existence. (Okay that was more of a blathering but,)Miller is doing something different. The chronological arrangement of the poems coupled with the range of topics, from Creation to WWII, threaded together with scenes of violence and death, demonstrate an attention to craft as well as human nature. Some personal favorites in the book are “Hart Crane”, “The Death of Marcus Licinius Crassus” and “Tecumseh”. The first deals, not with the death of poor Hart, but with one of his last real nights alive banging a drum on the roof of a Cathedral. The second reveals just how superficially humans can live and die and how it is really nothing new at all. The last reports a vow of righteous hatred and intended conflict. Each poem amounts to more than a profile and the add up in the telling directing the reader all the way to the climax in Hitler’s Bunker which is examined in five separate parts.
The language is engaging and the prose style pays off. Were these pieces presented differently they would probably not be as good and the reader would get stuck on the intended delivery of a particular syllable and miss out on the content. It's interesting to think how the author might intend to read these pieces aloud but then the voices here is going over long dead, even ancient subject matter.
How do I describe this book? Try Cormac McCarthy in a time machine writing in the style of Max Jacob for a series of associated press articles. Maybe that’s close…probably not. I’ll stick to the traditional review. Check out Mike Begnal's blog over in yonder links section he has a much better review of this book.
Tim Miller has appeared in Burdock 2 and 4. He lives in Brooklyn New York. He’s got a website too.

1 comment:

Mike Begnal said...

As you mentioned I've reviewed this book myself (not necessarily better), so I don't have too much more to say, except that I like the personal approach of your review....