CHRIS MANSEL Reviews
SWIMMING HOME by Vincent Katz
(Nightboat Books, New York, 2015)
(Nightboat Books, New York, 2015)
In section IV of his poem “Barge,” Vincent Katz captures quite correctly what it feels like to grow old, “There is a reason to lose our senses as we get to be old/ And that is not to feel that the final end is so terrible/ If we are, so to speak, infantilized, then what we encounter/ May be merely a kind of odd discomfort, a pain/ As from infancy we are accustomed to suffering, and cry/ Out our lungs when we are unable to verbalize what we feel.” Do we really return to a child-like nature? It has been analyzed by better minds then my own. Child-like is childish? Unable to verbalize as Mr. Katz writes is a real possibility. Trapped in the human body or, as Whitman wrote, “Come up here, soul, soul.”
Mr. Katz writes in bold, seductive lines that express the colors and sounds, the scenes he sees out of windows and the clips, so to speak, as he traverses the symbolism in many of the poems. Rain, water, drinking, clouds all play a role in this work. As he writes in the poem “A Perfect Day,” “Rhythm of preparing food, eating, cleaning. / Many varied kinds of insect. / Late reflections on buildings, light fluttering like water.” If he were in these couple of lines to thrust his hands into cold water, you could imagine the lines of poetry would change certainly. There are many ways to psychoanalyze water in poetry for writing in general. What Mr. Katz does is to make the leap from death to water and then to heaven, perhaps. He writes in the XIX section of the poem, “Barge,” “People die in ponds - /Boats turn over / A solid blue, green-edged, hovers / Silken marsh grass waves / At day’s end light in pine tops.”
Next to the poem “Barge,” which I think is the best work in this volume, “Swimming Home,” for which the book is named, is a stellar piece of work. He writes, “A body seen through water, a changing light, a turn, a change in lane, is that a thigh or a torso? The mind could be seen traveling back, but to where? Where could begin the myth of the body, the kick that leaves you reeling, compelled?” When I was a young teenager I had the terrifying experience of almost drowning. As I fought hysterically to get to the surface of the water feeling as if someone was pressing me down, I saw the shapes of others as Mr. Katz describes. “The kick that leaves you reeling…”
Mr. Katz, in the final piece of the book entitled “Sidewalk Poem,” writes, “Can’t control time but am able to add to it / have the possibility here / one who reckoned against it lost / one who reckoned for it found.” In Swimming Home it is found, never lost. You may find yourself relating to the imagery, the life-affirming words that are here for the reader to find.
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.