Monday, February 02, 2015

`Of Late Estival Yumminess'

Today would have been Tom Disch’s seventy-fifth birthday had he not ended his life on Independence Day 2009. He would have made a fine old man, full of life, humor and good stories. Disch is probably best known as a writer of science fiction, and one of his novels, Camp Concentration (1968), transcends the tacky limitations of that kiddie-lit genre. But it’s as a poet we should honor Disch’s memory. I remember reading Eric Ormsby’s review of what turned out to be Disch’s final collection, About the Size of It (Anvil, 2007), calling Borders to hold a copy and stopping on the way home from work to buy it. Rare is the poet who can dazzle with technique, touch your emotions and make you laugh. Disch is a satirist who also celebrates the world. His poems are death-haunted and full of life, and About the Size of It is one of the best collections published in the last decade. See “Villanelle for Charles Olson,” “Systems of Mourning,” “The Size of the World,” “The Vindication of Obesity,” and “September”: 

“Slice the earth anywhere
& like a plumcake it yields
one thumbful after another
of late estival yumminess
yams & more yams, tuberous
boobs of a subterranean
Cybele discovering herself
fan by fan, shovel by shovel
to the insatiable gaze
of the whistling, worshipful
clods, who call aloud the litanies
of cookbook and bawdry
Crisp potatoskins, steamed ears
of corn, ripe tomatoes steeped
in virgin olive oil
The votive ovens glow like flesh
Our hearts & mouths are full
of praise & sweet potatoes”

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