George Elliot Clarke's Gold Indigoes is the ongoing celebration of life's sensuous fabric, worried as it is by the transience of pleasure. Clarke's lines are the taut, high octaves of the string, and these same lines often become the thickened hemp that pulls along grief's tonnage. In "Secret History," he writes, "I give you all, all I have--this epic / lyric, let there be only kisses...." These twenty-two poems in three sections are the pliable testaments of a man who exposes his desires and hopes along with his wounds and fears.
"Lush Life" borrows its title from jazz, as do several of these poems and the book's title. Clarke lifts the perfect air of seduction onto a union of language and color. In this poem French and English combine in imagery that begins in snow and frolics through the redness of wine and hair to the orange of tea and that shade of complexion as he evokes a Moorish-Norman woman who brings with her the geography of Carthage and Normandy. This small poem is full and ambitious, bringing the two energies together in a space that is vulnerable only to poetry, the soul's incendiary light. "... a sudden poem whips, / thrashes, frothing your book."
The reader gets the sense of Clarke's full awareness and fear of himself as the embodiment of poetry in these twenty-two workings in the spirit. At times the poems tease a tender bathos, but are held tenuously in a place that holds more desire than regret. "All my years have been mere dodges of death," the speaker confesses in "Paris, Annapolis," and one cannot help but wonder if the resilience in these poems has a wellspring that allows the victory of life over absolute form in Clarke's imperfect sonnets as well as his flirtation with both the vernacular profane and the formal pristine. My associations go back to the title, a golden hue of love's insistence against the heavy meditations of Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo." There is also the Ellisonian allusion to "his" theme drawn from black music--"Tell Me Why I Am So Black and Blue."
However, Clarke's poetry argues against his invisibility. His heart demands to be seen.
Gold Indigoes achieves moments of manifest beauty that vibrate the spine and titillate the skin, tempting the reader to be brave against conjugal love's fire. "Overcome" is one of these moments. The balance in the lines between turmoil and peace fills these four couplets until they rock like the ships the imagery comes to in summation. Elliot gives the seafaring conceit an orgasmic crest as he writes, "Raptured in bed, we heard rain whine and hail / Dark, spectacular ejaculations ...."
The "Secret History" of Gold Indigoes unfolds in the twenty-one poems that follow, and this lovely chapbook touches the unimaginable, namely the perimeters of the limits of a man's ability to be vulnerable and, in this way, love intensely. In "April 1, 1996," Elliot writes, "A brief kiss--one kiss--and I breathe the future."
Carolina Wren Press has produced a handsome chapbook here, fashioned out of Clarke's bloodwork, with a sewn spine and paper that hungers for timelessness. Kudo.
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|Author:||Weaver, Afaa M.|
|Publication:||African American Review|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2001|
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