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Kiot: Selected Early Poems 1963-1977.

Kiot: Selected Early Poems 1963-1977

Charles Potts

Blue Begonia Press

225 S. 15th Avenue, Yakima WA 98902-3821

ISBN 0911287515 $10.00 256 pages

Charles Potts has aptly named this breathtaking retrospective of his early work: Kiot--the Coyote--the wary trickster and cagey loner, announcing his existence with penetrating voice. Like the coyote, Potts wnnders through time and the cosmos, heralding his protest and outrage with a voice that cuts through human imagination and registers at our prehistoric core. Lending power to Potts' words are kiot drawings by Robert McNealy. Like the poetry these drawings represent, the art is simple but evocative of truth.

One poem alone--"Obit Mirage"--is worth the price of this book. In it, Potts reveals multi-layered worlds within worlds with such skill and grace that only one reading barely scrapes the surface of its content:

My people came

On a rickety ship

From the Favorsham

To the land of profits ...

From the "land of profits", Potts takes us on a journey that enlightens, then amazes with his wily use of words. With him, we experience the:

Existential beadwork of despair....

And the:

Snapped synapse of communication

And we see through his heart and eyes the disfigurement of pristine land:

Though the unmysterious Clutter of the mess men make with Unordered hands Can be found on the surface Of the national forest ...

We experience the laying of a railroad where native Indians once lived:

The Golden Spike Came on a hammer To clinch the tie that binds the blinded Termites of a deserted woodwork ...

Those are chilling words, but Potts has just begun his cry:

To the consciously expanding Already rotten basket of Interlocking grids The erratic Cancer America spreads to Defacto territories and Girdles the world with fear ...

Solutions to such taints and fear-provoking problems are beyond man's ability to grasp:

And only the stars know Which way to turn ... ........ The mountains do not notice That man has plumbed a line On their rocks

Man pays a heavy price for his dysrhythm with the land, as does the poet who protests it, as:

The shattered self scattered With too much to place Collecting Specimens in a death heap ...

Well, those were excerpts from just one poem. Do you know yet why the kiot cries? Potts' use of word and cadence is often stunning, regardless of the topic. Consider, for example, these excerpts from "I Dream of Oaxaca":

I dream of Oaxaca And the lean and haggard vigil Born of love I don't break laws I reject civilizations ... .......... The blue winds of October blow The particles of light Into the whites of my eyes And sculpt Of the wind Sound A Puget flower ... .......... I'll neither live nor die For any madness other Than my own ...

I appreciate the ways Potts adroitly pinpoints weaknesses. This excerpt from "Throback" is one example:

The simple sexless creatures Who imagine they are in charge How I loathe Caucasians and the fear That forces them to burn Slant eyed children ...

With equal ability, this poet also uses humor and irony as he moves forward and backward through generations, addressing religion, class distinctions, government trickeries and lies. His style is more elegant and eloquent than the Beat poets and more engaging than post modern symbolism. Potts sets himself apart from the rest with earthy turns of phrase and cunning metaphors. Not one word or syllable is wasted or extraneous. In an Afterword that is easily as powerful and precise as his poetry, Charles Potts adds this later message to his early work:

The weddings, births, and baptisms turn quickly enough into hastily assembled wakes.... I wear death like a necklace of chocolate skulls for school children in La Dia de Los Muertos in Oaxaca or Jalisco. What these poems from more than twenty-five to forty years ago have in common is dead earnestness.

This poet writes on his own terms. The dead earnestness of Charles Potts is highly recommended.
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Publication:MBR Bookwatch
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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