From the archives: Poetry book criticism of Robert P. Craig’s “All that comes, goes”.

ROBERT P. CRAIG – ALL THAT COMES, GOES: A MIND-BLOWING WORK OF GENIUS.

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ROBERT P. CRAIG – All That Comes, Goes: a mind-blowing work of genius.
(Published by Cyberwit.net, 2007, ISBN 978-81-8253-088-1, 48 pages, paperback, US$10)

All That Comes, Goes is (in my opinion) a mind-blowing work of genius. Robert P. Craig has possibly created an entirely new genre in short literature. Through a succession of narratives, which can be experienced as either being connected or disconnected, the narrator (the observer) and the protagonist (“she”) dispassionately recount the more or less mundane circumstances and surroundings in a way that both tells a story … and does not. Every observation and – dare I say – “non-eventful event” seems to have equal weight. And yet, the passivity of the texts creates an engaging and somewhat existential sense of floating in the reader … a space where both being and not being are purely a question of personal experience and where the individual creates his/her own reality. After a short while, I began to experience confluence in regards to who was actually “she”, and who was (in fact) the narrator.

I find the work rather disarming, and reading it brought back associations to passions from my early adulthood years: theatre productions by Robert Wilson, performances by Meredith Monk, reading Jean Paul-Sartre … and psychedelic drug trips where the utmost attention was given to minute details, slowing down time and exaggerating the significance of each observation. However, the real fun of reading this book is when the reader stops looking for stories, and discovers how well crafted the individual lines are.

This is a book that must certainly have many a reader offering his/her interpretations and speculations about the author’s intent. All are possibly equally correct and incorrect. This is not an intelligence test, but it is a mind-twister.

I would like to present two passages from All That Comes, Goes as an illustration:

THE HOTEL
was a very quiet place, considering
its position, and perfectly suited to
her needs. It lay several hundred
yards from the small train station,
near a terrace of elderly mansions
cut off from the main avenue by a
line of plane trees and a parking
patch. The traffic roared past all
night. But the inside, though it
was a fire-bowl of clashing
wallpapers and copper lampshades,
was a place of extraordinary calm.
Not only was there nothing going on
there, but there was nothing going
on in the world, either.

THE TOWN
It was afternoon.
One of winter’s periodic downpours
had begun.
It turned the city’s cobbled alleys
into minor watercourses,
its flat roofs into miniature lakes.
The sky and the sea, both usually
the color of blazing blue,
assumed a dull and uniform grey.
Even the lofty city walls had lost
their proud, golden hue.
Melancholy, as well as clouds,
had settled upon the town.

I rarely say this in a book review, but I will say it now: ‘Buy this book! Especially if you have been telling yourself that you really do not like poetry.’

– Literary criticism (2008) by Adam Donaldson Powell (based upon “All That Comes, Goes”, published by Cyberwit.net, 2007, ISBN 978-81-8253-088-1, 48 pages, paperback, US$10)

ROBERT P. CRAIG (USA) has written two books of poetry, and has authored and edited several non-fiction books and articles. He is a Professor of Philosophy (Ph.D) at San Jacinto College.

Thoughts on writing poetry.

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(These still photos of Adam Donaldson Powell are from Marina Abramovic’s film “The Scream”, republished with permission from Ekebergparken’s Scream Prosjekt / Marina Abramovic)


I am often asked what I look for in poetry books that I review, or consider reviewing. There are many poetic forms being used today, with many hybridisations. There exists both a sense that there are “no rules” anymore and, at the same time, there are some unspoken literary guidelines that determine the probability for successful literary communication – beyond the subjective, and questions of personal taste. I believe that it is important for me as a reviewer to restate what I look for from time to time. As I have written elsewhere, I look for many qualities including: evenness in quality, diversity in content and form, artistic intent, planning, execution and polish (the degree of polish being both intentional and commensurate with the desired expression), and an overall concept of the book as a complete work of art – beyond an arbitrary “stew” of individual poems. In addition, I pay attention to the author’s sense of originality, political and social awareness, mastery of storytelling, and visual, musical and philosophical expressions indicative of the author’s experiential personal history. I further look for: balance of intellectual rationalism and emotional presence, a solid command of the full palette of language(s) used, descriptive colour, clarity, intentional usage of abstractions, entertainment and theatrical/performance value, humour and occasional irony, and an overall sense of when to use poetic economy versus poetic rapture. And finally I am concerned that the author has an understanding of how to arouse within the reader a sense of personal identification, emotion and engagement – enabling the reader’s ‘inner artist’ to enter into a creative cognitive dialogue with the author, and hopefully even to inspire the reader to embark upon his/her own creative process.

I believe that art is both an intentional and an intuitive process, with many pitfalls: eg. overwriting, non-attention to levels of language used ($5 words can sometimes be more appropriate than $5000 words), stylistic and punctuation liberties that sometimes work and sometimes not, mimicking famous (and usually deceased) writers without sufficiently developing one’s own signature style, and getting all too caught up in – or ignoring – traditions of literature without having thought through why one has consciously chosen this or that style, or a divergence … just to name a few. At the same time, I believe that artists must always keep experimenting in order to grow and to develop further. That means taking risks … and sometimes even falling flat on one’s face. That is okay. We eventually learn from both our own … and others’ mistakes.

So writing is not a static process … and neither is literary criticism. While much criticism for first-time authors can be similar, it must be kept in mind that 1) there is no definitive “correct way” of writing, 2) criticism is personal and subjective to a large degree, and 3) there has never been a “perfect” book (and never will). I do not personally believe that writing a perfect book is an all important goal. Constant experimentation with technique, style, form and language is the real key to self-development and literary development. A not so well received book can be preceded by one or more very well received ones – who is to judge what is “good or not”? And the perhaps “not-as-good” book could teach author and reader much more than the “good” ones.

– Adam Donaldson Powell

Adam Donaldson Powell’s book review of “Bull of Heaven”, by Michael G. Lloyd.

BullofHeaven

BOOK DESCRIPTION (FROM AMAZON.COM):

As a teenager, Eddie Buczynski had dreamed of becoming a Jesuit Priest. Rejected by the Church because of his questioning mind and budding homosexuality, his feet were soon set on a different path-one that would lead from his childhood home in Ozone Park to the raucous streets of ’60s Greenwich Village, through the burgeoning Neo-Pagan spiritual movement of the ’70s, before depositing him into the academic realm of Classical & Near Eastern archaeology. Bringing together the threads of disparate subcultures, social movements, spiritual paths and characters, “Bull of Heaven” weaves Buczynski’s life into a tapestry that encompasses the history of contemporary Paganism and the occult in New York City. And in so doing, it offers an intimate glimpse into the lives of GLBT men and women whose heretofore untold contributions helped to shape the face of contemporary Paganism. Part biography, part history, Bull of Heaven shines a spotlight on that rarest of beasts-a previously unstudied slice of New York City history.

Review of: Bull of Heaven: The Mythic Life of Eddie Buczynski and the Rise of the New York Pagan, author of book: Michael G. Lloyd

This book is quite a tour de force … it is extremely well-written, well-researched and documented, entertaining, and it is an important historical document that deserves a wide readership. Mr. Lloyd has taken the genre of biography to a new level. I am certain that many of us – deeply ensconced in our own spiritual practices and personal development during the ’70s, ’80s and even later – would benefit from the comprehensive historical, political and social perspectives that this author has so diligently provided … and which give enhanced understanding of what we were part of, and that which influenced our motivations, and which have helped to form who we are today.

This important book celebrates the new ‘coming out’ of modern Paganism. The New Consciousness we have embarked upon heralds a new Spirit of openness and greater community, devoid of the hoarding of spiritual knowledge and practice for the elite few. The real Power of Magick is not confined to texts or ritual procedures in a Book of Shadows, or those of other secret societies, but is rather embraced by the everyday consciousness and practice of Spirituality. It is the latter that empowers the magician and the Magick, and which assures both growth and renewal of The Craft … and its universality.

– Adam Donaldson Powell, author/artist/activist and High Priest, Minoan Brotherhood

Purchase this book from:

Lulu.com

Amazon.com

iBooks

TWO INTERVIEW PODCASTS FEATURING MICHAEL LLOYD:

PODCAST ONE

PODCAST TWO

Michael_G_Lloyd B&W