CHRIS MANSEL Reviews
Latest Volcano by Tana Jean Welch
(Marsh Hawk Press, New York, 2016)
“When misfortune confounds us in an instant we are saved by the humblest actions or memory or attention.” – Jorge Luis Borges
Latest Volcano, the new book by Tana Jean Welch, isn’t understated or sitting quietly on a shelf somewhere. No. It’s a bold book whose cover art should tell you what you are in for. A woman’s head is blinded and appears to be lying back as you pick it up and look at it. As you turn it around you will read what a couple of people have to say about it. Then walk to the counter and buy it. How is that for a review?
In the poem, “The Third Time She Ran Away” she writes: “It was a dark room, but to pull the thick drape/ from the large window, to touch the afternoon light spreading/ over Nordine’s Craiglisted body/ asleep on the bed.” Not only does this poem get better but it gets darker. It takes place above El Paso, a place where I lived for a year. A place of much darkness and much light. This poem perfectly reflects it. She pulls the “drape” obscuring the light. To touch the “light spreading.” El Paso sits in a bowl if you will, surrounded by mountains. In any film you hear the music in such a scene but its unnerving in a scene such as this when you don’t.
“The couple will leave the jellyfish, go back/ to the pink blankets of the boarding house, / caress each other into an assault of sweat/ before collapsing on separate sides of the bed, / each the loneliest person in the world.” This is from the poem, "The Triumph of Light over Darkness, Vienna 1904." In the brief message before the poem Ms. Welch tells the reader that this what was said by the painter Gustav Klimt from the balcony in the Great Hall. If you have ever seen a painting by the great master, you can easily imagine that the level of his conviction could inspire such a scene. The scene after all that Ms. Welch is describing is when Klimt’s paintings were called pornographic. It’s easy to find the idea of the jellyfish quite charming.
In the poem “Peace and Happiness with Every Step” Ms. Welch writes, "Peace: Kind words/ drip off small scraps of colored papers tied to oak/ tree arms. Happiness: inked onto rice-paper birds.” You can visualize the “scraps of colored papers” as prayer flags tied to trees, to poles and in Nepal to power lines. This is just a very small part of longer poem, a very fine poem. Remember what I said in the first paragraph? Buy this book.
Chris Mansel is a writer, filmmaker, epileptic, musician, photographer and a permanent outsider for some reason. Along with Jake Berry, he formed the band Impermanence who have released one album, Arito. He releases music under the name dilation Impromptu who have released four albums and have just released a new Cd Indentions On The North Face of Everest. His writing has been published in the Experioddi(cyber)cist, Apocryphal Text, and the Atlantic Press among others. He has made over 260 short films for other artists as well as his own work.